North’s first-half blast
rocks BNL as Cougars
claw to 67-55 victory
By Justin Sokeland
The kids were not hot tonight. Not when defended, not even when wide open from 15 feet. At some point, Bedford North Lawrence’s youthful exuberance was going to be washed away by waves of experienced reality. At some point, the Stars were going to struggle in the deep end.
They dove into murky water on Saturday night, and couldn’t paddle to the surface, drowning in the Jallow end as Bloomington North gushed to a 67-55 victory in BNL Fieldhouse. North star Musa Jallow, a Division I recruit who already has a standing offer from Indiana University, scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while powering the Cougars to a win in their season opener.
If BNL had a shot at its first true signature victory, it had to make some. Anything. Drop a trey, swish a free throw, convert a short-range jumper. Unfortunately, the Stars fired more blanks than a movie stuntman with Clint Eastwood’s prized Magnum.
While BNL was suffering from rim disease in the first half, the Cougars were making almost everything, draining six 3-pointers during a devastating second-quarter run that was ultimately the difference. North exploded to a 41-20 halftime lead, and only BNL’s grit and determination – quite impressive for such a young group – kept the blowout from expanding.
The Stars fought their way back within single digits in the fourth quarter, but it was much too little and way too late.
“We did play hard, there’s no doubt about that,” BNL coach Matt Seifers said. “I don’t know that we played well in the second half, we just played a lot harder. We still made a ton of mistakes. The boys did not quit. It was fantastic for a young team. The way they played the first half, they could have got beat 40 points. And they didn’t.”
North’s second quarter, which started with a modest 13-8 lead, created a cavern with no escape. Jallow started it with a thunderous fast-break slam, and then his backcourt teammates started draining and raining treys: Jack Townsend, a freshman, buried a pair. So did Sam Weger. If the Cougars can do that consistently this season, watch out.
“A great first half, pushing the ball, finding guys,” North coach Andy Hodson said. “We got the nerves out pretty quick. We got it going a little bit, from all different angles. That’s how we want to play, of course.”
Of course. And it helped that BNL went 6 of 27, including 1 of 10 from long range, during the same time span. That’s not how BNL expected to play, of course. If not for sophomore guard McCall Ray, who scored 13 first-half points, BNL would have been virtually shut out.
Teams without pride or spirit would have quit right there. What’s the point of expending energy in a hopeless cause? The Stars did not accept that fate. They chipped away, without any real spurt, just one possession at a time.
They got within 46-32 on Gaven Moore’s rebound basket. Then they opened the fourth quarter with a brief 10-0 burst, with Ray and Jathan Ritter swishing 3-pointers, that slashed the deficit to 57-49 with 3 ½ minutes left. But only a perfect-storm scenario could complete a miracle comeback, and it wasn’t happening. Jallow scored off an inbound lob into the lane, then made 7 late free throws to close it out.
“We want Musa with the ball,” Hodson said. “He has to be our guy.”
“If Musa hits shots like that, I don’t know how you guard him,” Seifers said. “And all the guards hit shots tonight. It was just a snowball we couldn’t get out of.”
Jallow was the guy, but he had support as Townsend, Weger and Liam Wilkerson all scored 9 points and combined to hit 8 treys. Logan Calvin was not an offensive threat but he did collect 12 rebounds.
“We have to have Musa with the ball, with other guys moving, too,” Hodson said. “We were just standing there watching him go one-on-one, and it wasn’t working out.
“We just got stagnant and started jacking shots. In the second half, it was one guy with the ball and everyone else standing. Luckily we settled in, hit some free throws, and got out of here with a win. It’s a tough place to win. They fought us. They’ve got some nice, young players with a bright future, if they play hard like that.”
Ray finished with a career-high 23 points. Take him out of the offense, and BNL hit only 8 of 33 shots. The Stars were also only 19 of 34 at the foul line. Make those, even with other struggles, and the outcome might have changed.
“We talked about the fact I thought we could make some shots,” Seifers said. “Maybe we can’t. We have to figure out something else. Our offense was stagnant. We tried to do too much individually at times. It’s a young team that has to figure out how to trust each other. But we’re not really good right now. We’re really not.”
BNL (1-1) will have almost an entire week to recover, although the rebound opponent will be angry when the Stars visit Bloomington South (a 61-38 victim of No.1 New Albany) on Friday night.