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BOYS BASKETBALL: BNL better than advertised

Isaiah Stockman

BNL junior Isaiah Stockman drives to the basket against Columbus North during Thursday’s scrimmage. Stockman had 11 points as BNL ‘won’ the workout by a combined score of 54-48.

Young Stars ‘win’ scrimmage

at Columbus North as Ritter,

Ray, Stockman lead the way

By Justin Sokeland

COLUMBUS – If the muttering was true, if the worriers were concerned about the state of Bedford North Lawrence basketball – and the angst was coming from within the BNL camp – imagine the fear from without.

Take a deep breath.

In their public debut against real competition (not counting the intrasquad practice, which is just a glorified practice), the Stars were better than advertised as they not only competed against Columbus North in the IHSAA-sanctioned scrimmage on Thursday night, they won it. That’s right. Won it.

Now let’s preface that just a bit. The Bull Dogs were missing a couple of important players (out because of illness and suspension). The format, four quarters of a running clock until the final minute, included dictated defenses. And if free throws were shot for every foul whistled, North would still be camped at the line.

Brayton Bailey

BNL freshman Brayton Bailey slides past Columbus North’s Trey Vincent. Bailey had 6 points and two impressive blocks.

But let’s not dampen the enthusiasm BNL took from this surprising performance. With only two seniors on the roster, with two sophomores and a heralded freshman in the projected starting lineup, with only two players who have any varsity experience, the fresh-faced, fresh-look Stars ‘won’ the scrimmage 54-48 and left that ancient arena with a jolt of confidence that was unmistakable.

“I would say we outperformed our expectations a little bit,” first-year BNL coach Matt Seifers said. “As a first test, it was better than we anticipated.”

Predicting season success based on a preseason scrimmage is dangerous, dumb and impossible. But yet here was Jathan Ritter, popping treys. Here was McCall Ray, draining mid-range jumpers. Here was Isaiah Stockman, who will be alone in the paint on a lot of nights to come, scrapping against North’s trio of 6-7 giants. Where does North get all that length, all the time?

Bigger, older didn’t matter. Ritter and Ray scored 14 points each, Stockman totaled 11, and rookie Brayton Bailey – yes, that kid – had two highlight-reel blocks and scored 6 points.

Jathan Ritter

Jathan Ritter scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers.

“I really wasn’t expecting what happened,” Stockman said. “I knew we had the potential, but we came with a spark and ready to play.”

BNL bolted in front in the first quarter, with Ritter and Stockman stroking treys for a 13-8 lead before North’s Ethan Mitchell led a late flurry that ended with the Bull Dogs on top 15-14. The second quarter was where BNL shined brilliantly.

Ray started it with a bomb, Stockman worked loose twice for point-blank baskets, and Ritter canned another 3-pointer. And then came the Bailey contribution, back-to-back blocks on taller, elder foes that led to his own layup. Stockman joined the party with his own blocked shot that created another Bailey layup as the Stars ended the quarter up 20-11. Very impressive.

“We were really pleased with the first half,” Seifers said. “We got almost everything we wanted out of it.”

The lineups were mixed in the final two quarters. North took the third 8-6, and the teams battled to a 14-14 stalemate in the final. But the BNL statement, even as the Stars struggled with fouls (34), interior defense and rebounding, had already been made. And heard.

Gaven Moore

Gaven Moore spins into the lane and finds a path to the basket.

“There is still a ton of work to do,” Seifers said. “We probably have 50 notes on things we did not do well. But there is a lot to take away from here. The boys are excited.

“It’s huge. This was another springboard to do something. Every day in practice, we talked about how this is the worst this team is supposed to be, every day we’re trying to get better. We came here with a goal of getting some confidence, having some fun, getting to play somebody else, and getting better. I think we did all those things.”

Mitchell and Nathan Van Deventer both had 14 points for North.

BNL will start the regular season on Tuesday at home against Brown County.

BNL 54, Columbus North 48

BNL: McCall Ray 14, Gaven Moore 2, Brayton Bailey 6, Isaiah Stockman 11, Jathan Ritter 14, Alex McCutchen 5, Koby Byers 2

Columbus North: Nathan Van Deventer 14, Bailey Hester 6, Ethan Mitchell 14, Zach Green 7, Trenton Kelley 3, Stephon Peters-Smith 2, Trey Vincent 2