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Lafayette Carries Own Expectations to Columbia

The Fighting Irish are confident as they try to win their first state championship since 1976 this weekend.
(ST. JOSEPH) Lafayette will attempt to capture their first basketball state championship in 38 years this weekend, beginning with a meeting with Farmington in the Class 4 semifinals on Friday.

The Fighting Irish arrive in Columbia on the back of an impressive 53-41 win over Liberty North and 70-43 drubbing of Grandview in sectional play.

"It's been exciting. It's not every year you get the chance to go compete in Columbia at the final four," senior Billy Cook said. "We really had to make sure we focused and got back to work because we know there's still two games left in our season."

"We come to school on Monday, everybody's congratulating us and telling us how great we played," senior Xavier Kurth said. "It feels good, but at the same time we know we have more to do. We haven't done what we've wanted to do."

It's the second time in four seasons that seventh-year head coach Chris Neff has led Lafayette to state. The Irish won their first sectional game and advanced to the Class 4 state semifinals for the first time under head coach Chris Neff in 2011. Despite placing fourth after losses to Sikeston and Soldan International Studies, the run showed the direction the program was heading.

"Now, it's something we see as a possibility because we've done it," he said. "You start raising the bar yourself. Because of that team, whenever we have a good team, last year, this year, state is the goal. "

Cook and Kurth were freshman on that team and plan to now use the experience to their advantage as team leaders.

"I was watching those guys play, and it looks amazing to be out there," Kurth said. "From that year to my senior year now, to realize that I'm one of those guys that's going to be watched, it's another level."

"We've seen the evolution of the program over the years," Cook said. "With the heightened expectations to cap it off with a state title, it would mean a lot to us."

No boys team from St. Joseph has won a state basketball crown since Bishop LeBlond in 1977. 

The Irish tip at 6:00 p.m. against Farmington from Mizzou Arena on Friday.



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