BNL reclaims the throne with victory over FW South
Lady Stars win third
as McBryde and Bailey
lead the way to victory
By Justin Sokeland
TERRE HAUTE – The crown still fit. Perfectly.
Bedford North Lawrence, one of the blue-blood, royal elites of Indiana high school girls basketball, reclaimed the throne. All Hail! Long live the queens.
For the third time, for the first time since 1991, the stars aligned, forming a state championship constellation, for the Lady Stars. They capped a perfect season, the second in school history, with a 54-51 victory over No.11 Fort Wayne South in the Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 4-A state final on Saturday night in Hulman Center.
The galaxy is theirs.
Sophomores shouldered the load, as Dominique McBryde and Alexa Bailey scored 19 points each, and junior guard Sammy Dillman hit the clutch 3-pointer – the only trey the Stars made – that put the Stars in front with 1:23 left. It was the back-breaker, the championship maker, the dream clincher as BNL fought, scrambled, scratched – and won.
Most of their wins were easy. This was not. Fort Wayne South pushed the Stars to the brink of bitter disappointment. They did not fall into that abyss.
“Our kids just dug in and decided to have the refuse-to-lose attitude,” BNL coach Kurt Godlevske said. “What can I say? Our kids just continued to battle. They’ve done it all year.”
They were tested, severely.
This time, in a rematch from a regular-season clash that the Stars won by 24 points, Fort Wayne South coach Juanita Goodwell promised it would be different. This time, the Archers would be rested instead of bus weary from 3-1/2 hour journey to Bedford. This time, they knew what to expect. This time, they would rise to BNL’s level. Goodwell was right.
The Archers (24-4) led early, they stepped in front late, they were on the verge of a shattering upset. FW South owned a 37-32 advantage with 3:11 left in the third quarter – with McBryde picking up her fourth foul at that critical moment – and they were even at 48-48 with 1:45 left. They deserved to be there.
“We had that monkey on the back, going down there and losing by 24 (63-39 on Jan. 26), everybody wanted to talk about that,” Goodwell said. “We just said we were going to play basketball. We were worthy of this, and we played like that. They played awesome.”
South was one defensive stop from taking control. And then up stepped Sammy.
Left alone in the left corner, with the title in the balance as she launched it, Dillman drained the clutch 3-pointer for a 51-48 lead. The Archers missed shots on their next three possessions. The Dillman arrow had pierced them.
“That one three, in the corner, for the game – I mean, come on, man,” Goodwell said with a wry smile. “But that’s what happens in a tight game like this. I think that was a little bit deflating. We couldn’t hit shots in the end, and that’s what it boiled down to.”
The Stars finished at the line. Bailey’s free throw with 38.5 seconds left gave the Stars a two-possession cushion. Her free throw with 21.1 second left, followed by McBryde’s free throw at 7.1, set off a wild celebration among the BNL faithful that comprised the bulk of the 6,918 witnesses. They sensed it.
Lakyn Gulley’s 3-pointer from the key with 1.1 seconds left kept South alive at 54-51, and Lauren Boshears missed a one-and-one on the other end. But a desperate fling was harmless. The ball, and the title, came to rest in BNL hands.
“I can’t believe we won a state championship,” Jenna Allen said.
That ending was in doubt for a long time.
Ariana Simmons was the cause of the BNL headaches. The FW South star, who didn’t hit a shot until the fourth quarter in the first meeting, scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds. She pushed the Archers in front right away with a short-range jumper and a three-point play. Her message: no blowout, no 17-0 run away and 45-12 halftime hole. Not now.
Rebounds were another BNL headache. The Archers battered BNL on the boards and scored off the extra chances. Offensive rebounds comprised 11 of South’s 20 in the first half. Third-chance points were not charted. FW South had plenty of those as well.
Yet BNL clawed back from its second first-quarter deficit of the season. McBryde scored five straight points for a 15-14 lead. Bailey led an 8-0 charge late in the second quarter with a 15-footer and two fast-break layups for a 26-21 edge. Simmons hit two free throws to slice the margin to 26-23 at the half.
McBryde had 13 points and Bailey 10 at intermission.
South regained control in the third quarter. Simmons scored twice, Lynnia Noel cashed in a layup, and De’Joyah Johnson slashed for a contested bucket, drawing McBryde’s fourth foul in the process, and the 37-32 lead.
“I told Damon (Bailey, one of BNL’s assistant coaches), if Dom fouled out, we were done,” Godlevske said. “We played from behind the whole game and that’s a difficult thing to do. Our kids hung in there. Simmons was unbelievable.”
The shot-for-shot trading, in a game that featured 12 lead changes and five ties, started again. Bailey turned a steal into a three-point play, and Simmons countered with a trey. McBryde drove the baseline for a basket, and Johnson made two free throws. That set the stage for the Dillman hero shot.
Heroes? There were several. Bailey hit 7 of 10 shots and had four steals, McBryde was 7 of 11. Allen had 11 rebounds. Dillman added four steals and four assists. Whitney Wilson played important minutes as a defensive replacement for McBryde, to save her for the other end.
They all made contributions. That’s what it took to achieve perfection.
“It makes me want to cry,” Godlevske said. “I can’t tell you how much I love those kids. A lot of coaches say that, but now I understand what kind of a special group it takes to be able to do this, to go through a whole season and cap it off with a state championship. It takes a lot of heart, a lot of mental toughness.”
The trophy ended up in Allen’s hands. “It’s amazing,” she said. “ I don’t want to let it go.”
She will have to eventually, to place it in its permanent home. BNL will stage a championship celebration at the high school on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Phil Knight