won 8 straight
in the series
By Justin Sokeland
For a team sport rivalry to flourish, to maintain its meaning and excitement, the competition should be level, intense and the outcomes divided.
That has not been the case lately between Bedford North Lawrence and Bloomington South.
The BNL-South battles date back to founding of the program, and many are historic, story-worthy tales that have been relived and retold countless times. Each has ripped out the other’s heart and loved doing it. From a BNL perspective, there is no other team on the schedule the Stars enjoy conquering more than South.
Label it a neighborhood, familiarity-breeds-contempt thing.
But it’s also been completely one-sided for eight straight years. During this near-decade of domination, only the last two meetings have been decided by single digits. Five were by 20-plus points.
“As long as I’ve been here, no team – freshman, JV or varsity – I’ve been on has ever beat them,” BNL senior (and perhaps Big Jinx) center Jackson Ryan said.
That’s not a rivalry. That’s punishment.
BNL (2-0) will seek to end that sad streak Friday night when it travels north to meet South (0-1). And there’s no way to overstate what a victory would mean.
“It would mean a bunch,” junior guard Trey Turner said. “It’s been a while. They’re been a team we’ve struggled with, and it would be really big to beat them.”
“They’re a great program,” Ryan said. “It would be huge for our program.”
Granted, the Panthers had tremendous teams during that span, including two Class 4-A state champions. But this South team, which lost an opener for the first time since the 1995-96 season, is not of that caliber. At least , with a freshmen and sophomore starting in the backcourt, not yet.
“We won’t be bad when it’s all over with, when our guards get some experience,” veteran South coach J.R. Holmes said. “I’m happy with the way we didn’t give up (in the 61-57 loss at New Albany last week). We did a lot of good things. I’m pretty pleased from the standpoint we played a freshman, a sophomore and five juniors. It was a learning lesson.”
In other words, if BNL is going to get them, and win at South for the first time since 1996-97, get them now.
South still has talent, with sophomore guard Johnny Jager, junior 6-5 swingman Keaton Hendricks and senior forward Johnathon Winters (all returning from last year’s sectional title team) all scoring in double figures in the opener. Jager had 17 points in last year’s 55-51 win over BNL.
“It’s another test for us,” BNL coach Jamie Hudson said. “They have more experience than we do and have a huge advantage in height (with another 6-6 starter and three 6-5 players coming off the bench). That’s something that worries me because we’re so small. We have to own the boards because they’re good rebounders and they’re big.”
BNL’s strength so far has been offensive balance and defensive toughness. Sophomore forward Blaze Byrer leads the Stars in scoring at 19.0 while juniors Morgan Cummings (9.5), Turner (8.5) and Matt Garrison (8.0) have all made significant contributions. BNL has allowed only 47 points per game as opponents have shot only 19 percent from 3-point range.
“The kids have bought into how we will have to defend this year,” Hudson said. “They’ve done a good job. If we can keep the turnovers down like we did against North (with only 10), if we can stay in the ballgame, we have a great chance of winning every game. This is the type of group that can do that.”
BNL suffered a blow on Tuesday when reserve junior guard Dillon Hensley went down with a high ankle sprain and will miss the next two weeks while wearing a protective boot. But the Stars will add junior Jesse Millikan into the mix after he completed the required number of practices to compete.
BNL will also host Salem (0-2) on Saturday night. It’s the first of three consecutive double-dip weekends on the schedule. BNL will also play three straight doubleheader weekends in January.
BNL at BLOOMINGTON SOUTH
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 2-0; Bloomington South 0-1
Series: South has won eight straight meetings and 13 of the last 15.
Last meeting: The Panthers prevailed 55-51. Nik Bailey had 15 points for the Stars, who owned a 46-44 lead with 3:32 left. Johnny Jager had 17 points for South.
Game notes: South opened with a 61-57 loss at New Albany, losing an opener for the first time since the 1995-96 season. BNL is going for a sweep of the three Monroe County teams for the first time since 1995-96.
BNL starting lineup
F – Blaze Byrer 6-3 So.
F – Matt Garrison 6-1 Jr.
C – Jackson Ryan 6-7 Sr.
G – Trey Turner 5-9 Jr.
G – Morgan Cummings 6-1 Jr.
Bloomington South starting lineup
F – Isaiah Gooch 6-6 Jr.
F – Johnathon Winters 6-2 Sr.
G – Keaton Hendricks 6-5 Jr.
G– Tucker Blackwell 6-1 Fr.
G – Johnny Jager 5-11 So.
SALEM at BNL
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 2-0; Salem 0-2
Series: BNL has won 36 of 38 games against Salem.
Last meeting: The Stars won 63-56 last year as Nick Bailey scored 18 points and Evan Deckard added 13. Ian Bowling had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Zach Bowling scored 16 points for the Lions.
Game notes: The Lions are averaging only 25 points per game. Salem’s only wins in the series came in back-to-back seasons, the last being an 80-59 victory in 2008-09.