By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD — In the last two seasons, Bedford North Lawrence has reached that point with an unblemished record, traveling to Brownsburg and suffering that first loss, both times by a point. Will history repeat itself? Well aware of the trend, BNL coach Jeff Allen intends to break this cycle of frustration.
The Stars, 6-0 and No. 2 in the Class 4A poll, will face their toughest challenge yet when they go head-to-head with No. 6 Zionsville in the final game of Saturday’s high-energy Sneakers for Santa show in Brownsburg. The six-game event features some of the state’s best teams and individual talent, crowned by the nightcap duel between BNL and the high-flying Eagles (7-0).
Coaches remember losses more than wins. Allen hasn’t forgotten the 2020 loss to Brownsburg (43-42 on a last-second 3-pointer) or the 41-40 setback to Illinois Power Fremd at last season’s Sneakers event. This high school holds bitter memories.
“The last two years haven’t been kind,” Allen said. “Don’t think we’re not thinking about it. The girls know that.”
For the third time, the Stars must defeat a formidable opponent with a Miss Basketball contestant as their main weapon to be the charm. Senior sensation Laila Hull, a 6-1 forward and North Carolina recruit, is averaging 23.0 points and 9.6 rebounds. Hull was a member of the Indiana Junior All-Stars in June. Zionsville have other scoring chances with junior guards Emma Haan (14.0 points) and Allie Caldwell (9.7) but Hull will demand the most attention.
“She reminds me of Dominique (McBryde, former BNL All-Star),” Allen said, giving plenty of praise. “She’s that type of player, very versatile, tall and athletic. She’s very skilled, a really nice player. I don’t think you stop a player like that, you make it difficult for him. We will try that.”
The size of Hull and the presence of Mallory Heerdt, the 6-0 elder, will put pressure on BNL’s undersized squad to recover and defend inside. But what else is new?
“We’re always outperformed in this category,” Allen said. “We have to surpass them. The girls know that. We have to recover as a unit, we have to fight.”
The stars will present their own problems to Zionsville to solve. BNL field its Miss Basketball senior guard contender Karsyn Norman (18.7 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 steals) as well as future Indiana All-Star contender Chloe Spreen (21.8 points, 6, 5 boards). Senior forward Mallory Pride has a total of 9.5 points and 5.0 boards.
BNL’s strength was their defense. Allowing just 30.2 points, the Stars won by a whopping 37.8 average while triggering the running clock in four games, including Jeffersonville’s impressive blowout (65-21) in their last game.
“They were in scramble mode and trying to pressure us, but we have five guards who can move the basketball,” said Allen, whose club Jeffersonville conceded a first-half field goal in the last 90 seconds. “We ended up in a break with numbers many times and that put them in a bad position. And defensively we did a great job.
“My guards are all skilled and have a lot of confidence. We’re a bunch of veterans. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
BNL have won three times in a row in the short streak, the last win being an easy 62-19 triumph during the 2019-20 season. Hull have only one freshman tonight (with 8 points). Since then it has grown in many ways.
“We’re going to try to use our speed to our advantage,” Allen said. “We will have to help a lot of people. If we can get stops, we can get off in transition. We have to compete, play hard and execute. If we do that, we think we’ll be in a good position.”
The remaining games on the Sneakers agenda include North Central (1-5) vs. Crispus Attacks (5-3) at 11:30 a.m., Brownsburg (2-5) vs. Crown Point (4-3) at 1:15 p.m., Foreign (4-0) vs. Jennings County (5-0) at 3 p.m., Bolinbrook (3-0 in Illinois) vs. Columbus East (4-3) at 4:45 p.m., and 4A No.1 South Bend Washington (6- 0) against No.3 Noblesville (6-0) at 6:30.
BNL vs. ZIONSVILLE
When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. in Brownsburg
records: BNL 6-0, 2nd place in class 4A; Zionsville 7-0, ranked 6th in Class 4A
Sagarin reviews: BNL 105.55; Zionsville 102.90
last meeting: In the 2019/20 season, the Stars stormed to a 62-19 win at BNL Fieldhouse. Irye Gomez and Chloe McKnight each scored 18 points for BNL. Laila Hull had 8 points for Zionsville, which had 29 turnovers.
Previous game history: Defensive stars destroy Zionsville
game notes: BNL have won three of their four meetings in the most recent series. Zionsville coach Andy Maguire recently won his 300th career game. The Stars are third in the state with 68 points per game.
Bedford NL stars
F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 Jr.
F – Mallory Pride 5-8 Sr.
G – Madisyn Bailey 5-8 Jr.
G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 Sr.
G—Emma Brown 5-5 Sr.
F – Laila Hull 6-1 Sr.
C – Mallory Heerdt 6-0 Sr.
G – Emma Haan 5-7 Jr.
G – Allie Caldwell 5-10 Jr.
G – Faith Leedy 5-4 Jr.