The numbers are simply astounding, close to unbelievable, surely unsustainable.
Three games makes any compiled statistics more of a streak than a constant, but it’s still amazing. No.5 Bedford North Lawrence is shooting 60 percent as a team. Four starters are over that mark.
Leading scorers and first options Jenna Allen (80 percent) and Dominique McBryde (79.2 percent) have combined to miss 10 shots. Are the Lady Stars playing in gymnasiums with clown-sized rims? Is there a magnet in the basketball? Everything is going in.
This isn’t a driveway game of HORSE. Or the Larry Bird-Michael Jordan duel, thanks to the magic of video editing, for a Big Mac. These aren’t unguarded free-throw attempts. This is the heat of battle, with defenders clawing and scratching. Mere mortals miss once in a while.
What is the BNL secret? Is it the limestone in the water? Is it a Harry Potter spell?
Actually, the answer is simple and it’s neither mystical nor geological.
It’s shot selection – who’s taking them, when they’re taking them, where they’re taking them. It’s offensive execution, it’s discipline. And it’s talent. BNL (3-0) has thus far, just a few steps into the regular season, played with all those characteristics.
“We have skilled kids in the right positions, and the skill they all seem to have is basketball smarts,” BNL coach Kurt Godlevske said. “They understand what is a good shot, what is not a good shot. That’s a gift they seem to have grown into, and they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do.”
Let’s define “good shot.” It is one attempted by the right person, from a comfortable position, without defensive obstruction. It’s one the shooter has a high-percentage chance – which usually means a more realistic 50 percent, not an unearthly 80 – of making without miraculous intervention.
In BNL’s case, that means sophomores Allen and McBryde – commonly and collectively known as “The Bigs” – get the ball in the paint, where 6-foot-3 kids can do damage. That means junior Brittani Rizzi gets her feet set and shoulders square from the 3-point line, where she is deadly. That means sophomore Alexa Bailey drives to the basket, that junior Sammy Dillman gets loose in transition or left alone for a jumper.
“We run stuff to get our shooters open,” Bailey explained. “We take the open shot if we have it. We’re looking inside first, then outside, so we’re running off the bigs.”
“The Bigs” require assistance to score. Someone must deliver the basketball to them. Good coaches love good guards, because they are crucial. Their primary job, in the BNL system, is not launching from long range, even though that looks pretty when successful. It’s doing the dirty work of directing, screening and passing. That makes an offense click.
“I think our development, what our focus is, how we’re trying to play, is a big credit to the three guards,” Godlevske said. “They all have a unique skill, and they’re being unselfish. That’s what we have, good teammates. They play together awfully well.”
Former Jeffersonville girls coach Chad Gilbert, now with the Jeff boys program, watched Saturday’s win over the Red Devils and liked what he saw from BNL. His team won the 2010 4-A state title with “bigs” as the stars. Those Devils didn’t have anyone who could consistently hit a shot from outside of 12 feet, so they rarely took one. They knew their strength.
Current Jeffersonville Matt Pait watched the Stars shoot 24 of 35 against his current Devils. He didn’t like it but had to be impressed.
“They’re really patient to get what they want,” Pait said. “They don’t shoot too many bad shots. They go inside or get open threes, and they do a really good job of waiting until they get one of those two things.
“They cut extremely hard, they screen well. It’s just fundamentals. They’re going to do what they do. They’re a very good team and they’re going to shoot well if you leave them open.”
The Stars didn’t sell their souls to beat the Devils. They simply played smart basketball. The number of bad shots could be counted on one hand. The “Bigs” got the ball inside and often.
“It’s pretty easy, when you have someone as athletic as Dominique,” Bailey said. “Jenna has great hands, so if you throw anything in there she’ll get it and put it in.”
As long as the Stars don’t forget that, as long as the guards take care of the ball (18 turnovers was a bit too much) and wait patiently for the opportunities that will come when defenses collapse to plug the middle, BNL will continue to post absurd numbers.
It’s an easy game when it’s done correctly. Right now, the Stars are doing a lot of things well. It bodes well.