Bedford North Lawrence Girls Basketball

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GIRLS REGIONAL: Columbus North defending its cown

Maliah Howard-Bass leads Columbus North in scoring as the Bull Dogs defend their Class 4-A state championship. Photo courtesy of Columbus North

Maliah Howard-Bass leads Columbus North in scoring as the Bull Dogs defend their Class 4-A state championship.
Photo courtesy of Columbus North

State champions to face

Center Grove in first

game of 4-A regional

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

The true sign of a program’s strength is continuity, and Columbus North has epitomized that this season. How many teams could win a Class 4-A state championship, lose Miss Basketball, and come back just as strong? The Bull Dogs certainly have.

Time turned the page, yet the story remains the same. Columbus North, 24-1 and ranked No.1, is defending its crown, and it’s going to be extremely difficult to pry it away.

The Bull Dogs will continue their quest for back-to-back titles on Saturday when they face Center Grove (12-12) in the opening game of the regional on their home floor. Bedford North Lawrence (19-7) will meet Evansville Central (23-2) in the second game, and those winners will collide in the final at 8 p.m.

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GIRLS REGIONAL: Stars, Bears have points to prove

Kennedy Bunch

Kennedy Bunch scored 19 points during the regular-season win over Evansville Central. The teams will collide again in the Class 4-A regional semifinal on Saturday.

Despite regular-season victory,

computer views BNL as slight

underdog in regional rematch

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

The computer, unbiased and cold, is unconvinced. Perhaps Jeff Sagarin’s mystical machine calculates Bedford North Lawrence’s regular-season victory as an anomaly, a statistical fluke, an error. Perhaps there’s a microchip loose, or data was entered incorrectly.

There has to be a scientific reason Evansville Central is rated – granted, the margin is razor thin – over BNL in the power ratings. Did not the Stars declaw the Bears during the regular season? Yes that was a month ago, and Central has not lost since. The rematch will settle the score.

BNL (19-7) will face Central (23-2) in the second game of the Class 4-A regional at Columbus North on Saturday afternoon. Top-ranked Columbus North, 24-1 and the defending state champion, will meet Center Grove (12-12) in the first game at 10 a.m. The final between the survivors is set for 8 p.m.

Review the recording. On Jan. 9 at BNL Fieldhouse, the Stars made a rug out of the Bears, skinning them 51-37. Central, one of the top-scoring teams in the state (then and now), was held to its lowest point total of the season. That result empowered BNL with the edge of proven superiority, and it gave Central the motivation for revenge.

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GIRLS REGIONAL: Bradley’s defense a tough pill for foes

BNL senior Erin Bradley is one of the defensive hawks for the Stars, who rank fifth among Class 4-A teams while allowing only 36.9 points per game. Photo courtesy of QT Photography

BNL senior Erin Bradley is one of the defensive hawks for the Stars, who rank third among Class 4-A teams while allowing only 36.4 points per game.
Photo courtesy of QT Photography

BNL senior fighting off

physical issues to help

Stars stop their opponents

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

Every day, every single day without fail, Erin Bradley swallows seven pills. Every day, almost without fail, she is sore, her body stiff and aching, far more than a teen’s should. She feels like she’s in her 50s, which isn’t old unless you’re 18 and tired of the grind.

The medicine regimen is necessary to help her cope with three auto-immune diseases – that’s correct, three – that fool her body into attacking itself. It’s rather ironic that Bradley’s own defense mechanism is suffering, because it’s the defensive ability of the Bedford North Lawrence senior that makes her victims suffer on the basketball court.

BNLs Erin Bradley launches a contested shot over Cener Groves Lauren Rau. The Stars rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half but fell short. Photo courtesy of Rob Baker

BNL’s Erin Bradley launches a shot against Center Grove. Bradley averages only 4.6 points per game, but her defensive ability was her ticket to Franklin College.
Photo courtesy of Rob Baker

She gulps, and she goes on. Is the game worth it? Seven pills. Today, tomorrow.

Actually, basketball is her therapy. If she didn’t play, if she was not so active, her body would lock up with stiffness from the constant attacks on her joints and tissues. And if she didn’t play, what would she do? Basketball is her passion.

“It’s the love of the game,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I think Erin loves playing the game of basketball. She’s a quality kid with a quality attitude. A lot of kids who get problems thrown at them, I don’t think they handle it as well as Erin has. She has strong character. That says a lot.”

Her issues started when she was young. She was diagnosed with Vitiligo, which causes the loss of skin color. With Bradley, it caused her right eyebrow to turn white and made her very self-conscious. People stare, some make remarks. She also has a chronic thyroid malfunction. And then last summer she learned she had Lupus, and she missed most of the off-season workouts.

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GIRLS REGIONAL: On wounded knee, Bailey defines tough

BNL guard Lorren Bailey cuts between defenders. BNL will have to cut down on turnovers when it visits HHC rival Seymour on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of QT Photography

BNL guard Loren Bailey came off the bench with a sore knee and sparked the Stars in the sectional semifinal.

Senior guard refused to watch

her team lose from the bench

with sectional crown on the line

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

Her team was floundering, trailing in a win-or-die postseason game, and Bedford North Lawrence senior Loren Bailey was dying on the bench. Her left knee hurt, but so did her soul. She was not going to watch her career end from the sideline.

With the Stars down double digits in the first half of the Class 4-A sectional semifinal with Jennings County, Bailey made eye contact with BNL coach Jeff Allen. Her message was simple. “Coach,” she said when she got his full attention, “put me in.”

Most of those requests are not uttered aloud on the bench, and if they are, they get ignored. But this was different. Bailey is one of the BNL captains, and she was not supposed to play anyway. She had suffered a bad bone bruise – after it was first feared that something vital had been torn – and was listed as doubtful. Allen did not plan on using her.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Another sectional in the Stars

Jorie Allen

BNL freshman Jorie Allen works her way inside. Allen had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Stars to their fifth straight Class 4-A sectional title on Saturday night.

Allen scores 20 points

while leading BNL past

Devils for 5th straight title

Box score

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

And a freshman shall lead them.

The basketball, and her team’s postseason fate, was her hands, and Jorie Allen accepted the challenge. During the rest of her career, whatever that holds, she will be asked to do that a lot. It’s part of the family legacy, part of the program tradition. Win that trophy.

Sectional championships are difficult to win, especially in the era of class basketball. Bedford North Lawrence has now won five in a row, none more difficult – or more satisfying – than the latest on Saturday night. Allen scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Stars to a 42-36 victory over Jeffersonville in the Class 4-A final on Damon Bailey Court.

BNL (19-7) advanced to the regional at Columbus North on Feb.  13 and will face Evansville Central in the second semifinal. Columbus North (a 62-35 winner over Bloomington South) and Center Grove (which vanquished Greenwood 90-85 in overtime) were the other sectional champions in that regional. Central decked Castle 67-57.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Defense the name of game in final

Jorie Allen encounters a defensive wall by Jeffersonville's Chelsea Gibson. Allen was limited to 8 points.

BNL’s Jorie Allen encountered a defensive wall by Jeffersonville’s Chelsea Gibson during the regular-season meeting. The Stars and Red Devils will battle for the sectional title on Saturday night.

Points will be precious

when Stars, Devils collide

for 4-A sectional crown

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

Perhaps neither team should be here. Bedford North Lawrence and Jeffersonville both crawled to the Class 4-A sectional final on their knees, thankful to have survived. Who said this tournament would be easy?

Yet, according to the Sagarin computer predictions, these are the top two teams in the field. That guy must know something, although no math genius and numbers guru could have predicted how the Stars (18-7) and Red Devils (16-8) advanced to the trophy game on Saturday night at BNL Fieldhouse.

BNL, which was supposed to have the rose-covered path, limped past Floyd Central and Jennings County in the first two rounds. Jeffersonville had desperate prayers answered when it rallied from 17 points down in the last six minutes to shock and devastate New Albany in the semifinal. Sometimes there is no explanation.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Another breathless escape for Stars

Jorie Allen

BNL freshman Jorie Allen drives past Jennings County’s Shelbi Wright for a layup. Allen scored 15 points as the Stars rallied for a 39-38 win in the sectional semifinal.

BNL advances to sectional

title game with 39-38

win over Jennings Co.

Box score

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

Every time the basketball was airborne, and Bedford North Lawrence’s defense of its Class 4-A sectional championship was in the balance with almost every shot, the collective drawing of breath – and the pause – was almost audible. The Stars were definitely waiting to exhale.

They turned a little blue, struggled a lot for air, and gasped to the finish. Jennings County made them cough, had them on an oxygen tank in the first half, and pushed them to a breathless conclusion. That’s the nature of the state tournament, and it’s uncomfortable.

McKenzie Messmore

McKenzie Messmore looks for a shot over Brooklyn Gaines, who had 14 points for the Panthers.

Down 11 points in the second quarter, BNL took a huge gulp and dove into the depths to escape the storm on the surface of choppy waters. Jorie Allen scored 15 points and the Kennedy Bunch drained a crucial trey late to push the Stars past the Panthers 39-38 in the sectional semifinal at BNL Fieldhouse.

BNL (18-7) advanced to meet Jeffersonville (16-8) in the final on Saturday night.

The Stars were fortunate to make their reservation. They trailed 22-11 midway through the second quarter and had that look, that “what’s going on out here” blank stare, that unfocused gaze into space. The Panthers were the aggressors, the tone setters, the fearless shooters. BNL looked pained on every possession.

“I think we’re playing not to lose, and that’s a dangerous game,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I told the girls they have to figure it out. There are some things a coach can’t do. We’re frozen. We’re standing and watching. That’s something the kids have to come to grips with. They have to relax and play.”

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Stars improvising, adapting on fly

BNL will have to adjust without senior guard Loren Bailey when it faces Jennings County in the sectional semifinal on Friday night.

BNL will have to adjust without senior guard Loren Bailey when it faces Jennings County in the sectional semifinal on Friday night.

Bailey’s knee injury forces

BNL to adjust as it faces

JC in sectional semifinal

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

The medical examination and its conclusion produced a better result than what Bedford North Lawrence feared. Senior starting guard Loren Bailey will not require surgery on her left knee, although she is still doubtful to play as the Stars go forward in their quest to win a fifth straight Class 4-A sectional championship.

Bailey went down with 6:11 left in the first half on Tuesday night, and doctors determined she had a bad bone bruise – which was the best news possible. Bailey left BNL Fieldhouse on crutches following the first-round win over Floyd Central. Her team limped out, physically and mentally, with her.

BNL statistics

The question now is how the temporary loss of Bailey will impact the Stars (17-7). Bailey represents more than her 3.1 points and 2.7 rebounds. She has experience as a starter in the last 51 games. She runs the offense, harasses opposing guards into frustration and surrender.

BNL will have two days to revise its game plan before meeting Jennings County (12-12) in the second semifinal on Friday night. New Albany (16-7 after ousting tourney favorite Seymour in the first round) will tangle with rival Jeffersonville (15-8) in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. The championship is set for 7:30 on Saturday.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Victory, with a painful price

Loren Bailey

BNL senior Loren Bailey absorbs a foul on her way to the basket. Bailey suffered a left knee injury on the play, which marred BNL’s 33-23 win over Floyd Central in the Class 4-A sectional on Friday night.

Stars beat Floyd Central

on submission hold, but

lose Bailey with knee injury

Box score

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

In professional wrestling, and now in mixed martial arts fights, victors often clamp down on the opponent and force a submission hold. The victim can’t move, can’t breathe, and is forced to tap the mat in surrender, or black out.

That’s what Bedford North Lawrence’s first-round Class 4-A sectional victory over Floyd Central looked like on Tuesday night. Whatever that was – wrestling, a playground brawl, or demolition derby – it was not basketball. The Stars limped away with a 33-23 victory, advancing to the semifinal against Jennings County on Friday night, but they paid a supreme price in bruises and a devastating injury.

Erin Bradley fights her way past a Floyd Central defender. The Highlanders were whistled for 26 fouls.

Erin Bradley fights her way past a Floyd Central defender. The Highlanders were whistled for 26 fouls.

BNL won the battle, but the loss of senior point guard Loren Bailey, who suffered a left knee injury early in the second quarter, marred the win. Her status going forward into the tournament for the four-time defending champions will be determined by a medical examination on Wednesday. Bailey, who left BNL Fieldhouse on crutches, and the Stars can only hope for the best news possible.

The Stars (17-7) had to gut out a win and absorbed a lot of gut shots to do it. The Highlanders (9-13) were called for 26 fouls (more than their point total) and forced BNL to take the punishment and make free throws. The Stars did a poor job of that.

Between Floyd Central’s 18 first-half turnovers, and BNL’s horrendous shooting (3 of 18), and Bailey’s unfortunate injury, the game was uglier than a rain-drenched, mud-covered dog. BNL had a 14-3 halftime lead – that’s correct, 14-3 – and felt like it had survived a football collision or two.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL: BNL ready to defend its realm

BNL freshman Jorie Allen, who had a career-high 29 points against Schlarman Academy on Saturday, will lead the Stars in their quest to win a fifth straight Class 4-A sectional title.

BNL freshman Jorie Allen, who had a career-high 29 points against Schlarman Academy on Saturday, will lead the Stars in their quest to win a fifth straight Class 4-A sectional title.

Stars to face Highlanders

as they start quest for 5th

consecutive sectional crown

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

The defender of the realm, the wearer of the crown, the owner of the trophy, Bedford North Lawrence will start its quest for another sectional championship on Tuesday night.

The Stars have won four consecutive titles, a streak that is impressive in the era of class basketball. Sure, BNL won 16 in a row from 1982-97 (just shy of Rushville’s state record of 18 straight), but that was against inferior competition, against overmatched opponents. This current run has been done against programs of equal stature.

BNL statistics

Consider that, until BNL started its reign, nobody in the six-team tournament had won more than back-to-back titles. Consider that BNL, following the start of the class system in 1998, didn’t win one until 2012. Consider this sectional has produced four state champions.

Winning this sectional is a feat. Winning four in a row is remarkable, when the other five are Hoosier Hills Conference neighbors that have already played BNL during the regular season and, while having a envious respect, desperately want to stop that streak.

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