Stars storm the Castle for revenge win over sticky Knights

NEWBURGH – BNL’s Chloe McKnight drives against Castle’s Megan Kain. McKnight scored 12 points as the Stars clipped Castle 48-43 on Saturday afternoon.

By Justin Sokeland

WBIW.com

NEWBURGH – Shedding a Castle defender is like getting super glue off the hands. It take some scrubbing and a lot of work to peel it away.

Bedford North Lawrence came in angry, vowing revenge for last year’s devastating loss in the Class 4A regional final, and scoured some bad memories with a victory of sweat more than sweetness, of tough more than style.

The Stars took control with a second-quarter surge, then survived Castle’s late charge for a 48-43 road triumph on Saturday afternoon. Irye Gomez paced a balanced front-line attack with 13 points as No.15 BNL (12-4) ended a three-game losing streak to its recent nemesis.

Nothing came easy. But then it shouldn’t, on the road, with the Knights (10-7) celebrating Senior Day, with Castle’s tenacious half-court defense making life miserable for BNL’s harassed backcourt. BNL had 17 turnovers, its most since a late November loss to North Central. BNL coach Jeff Allen was adamant his team would not have won this game in that month. But it’s January, and the growth was evident as BNL found a way to win without its best performance.

BNL muscled to a 42-31 lead with 4:33 left, then nearly crumbled as Castle applied full-Nelson pressure and scrambled within 44-42 with 1:15 remaining. Madison Webb sank two clutch free throws with 56.5 seconds left, and Gomez broke free for a final layup to secure BNL’s ninth consecutive win against Indiana competition.

“Lost a little hair on that one,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said, although who could tell with that close crop of his. “I don’t know we win that game in November. Beating them here, on Senior Day, is a tall task, and I’m just happy to get out of here with a win. It’s pretty enjoyable.”

NEWBURGH – BNL’s Irye Gomez looks for an opening against Castle’s Josie Freeman. Gomez had a game high 13 points.

BNL lost a little poise with the Castle assault. The Knights jump passing lanes like an NFL cornerback, making every exchange an adventure. But when the Stars were able to execute, they got production from Gomez, Webb (11 points) and Chloe McKnight (12).

BNL’s best moments came when it took over in the second quarter, hitting 6 of 7 shots. Gomez capped the run with a 3-pointer for a 26-18 cushion on the half. Castle’s worst moment came in the same period, as senior Josie Freeman went down with a right ankle injury and did not return. She had scored 8 points to put Castle in front.

“Josie has been beat up all year long,” Castle coach Bob Meier said. “It’s been a demoralizing year for her. Seeing that happen on Senior Night, it’s tough. She’s a competitor and these are the games she lives for. She wants to play the good teams.”

Castle’s problem was twofold as leading scoring Natalie Niehaus was smothered by BNL blanket Gracie Crulo-Rood, who is often assigned the task of shadowing the opponent’s best. Niehaus, averaging 20, was limited to 7.

McKnight, herself a victim of Castle’s swarming, squirmed free in the third with a lane drive, a wing trey and an off-balance, wrong-foot putback as BNL growled to a 38-29 lead. Webb opened the fourth with a layup, and Karsyn Norman added two free throws for the only double-digit difference in the game.

NEWBURGH – BNL’s Madison Webb towers above her defenders to score from close range. Webb had 11 points and 7 rebounds.

Castle went on an 8-0 run, with Jordan Coon drilling a corner 3-pointer and Ky Hay-Swope converting a steal into a 3-point play. BNL held on, and any little slip of the grip would have been disaster.

“I want to say toughness,” Allen said. “We got a little rattled, but that’s going to happen. I think we’re getting tougher, getting a little more confident to know even though things aren’t going well, we’re still going to win.”

Carly Harpenau paced Castle with 10 points. Niehaus, the difference maker in last year’s Castle sweep of the Stars at BNL Fieldhouse, was only 2 of 12 from the field.

“We tried to make that an emphasis,” Allen said. “She’s a really good player. She’s big and strong and can post you up. For the most part, we were able to contain her. It’s hard to keep her from not doing something when she’s out there.”

“They were physical, just being aggressive, and Webb is that presence behind,” Meier said of his scoring leader’s struggles. “That’s a lot of body to shoot over. They made her work for the little she did get.”

Webb and Gomez had 7 rebounds each, another factor as BNL won that stat decisively. Good thing, because the turnovers kept Castle within striking range.

“I don’t think we played great on the perimeter, but we had a lot of hustle plays,” Allen said. “They play really good defense, they really come after you. I don’t know, there’s maybe a few teams that can pester you like that in the half court, but there’s not a lot of them.”

BNL will return to Hoosier Hills Conference action on Tuesday, hosting Columbus East.

NEWBURGH – BNL’s Jenna Louden absorbs contact while running the offense.

BEDFORD NL STARS (48)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

22 Irye Gomez, f 2-4 43-8 3-4 7 4 13

32 Madison Webb, c 0-0 3-7 5-5 7 2 11

11 Chloe McKnight, g 1-4 4-14 3-5 5 3 12

24 Gracie Crulo-Rood, g 1-1 2-2 1-2 0 2 6

21 Karsyn Norman, g 0-2 1-6 2-2 4 3 4

23 Jenna Louden 0-0 1-2 0-0 2 1 2

40 Haley Deckard 0-0 0-0 0-1 4 1 0

12 Makena Moore 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0

50 Peyton Sweet 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Totals 4-11 15-39 14-19 33 17 48

CASTLE KNIGHTS (43)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

42 Josie Freeman, f 0-1 3-6 2-2 1 0 8

32 Natalie Niehaus, f 0-2 2-12 3-3 8 2 7

50 Allison Willis, f 0-0 0-1 0-0 3 1 0

24 Megan Kain, g 1-3 1-4 3-4 4 3 6

11 Carly Harpenau, g 1-2 4-7 1-1 1 3 10

12 Keira Moore 0-2 0-3 1-2 0 0 1

22 Ky Hay-Swope 0-0 3-6 2-4 5 4 8

3 Jordan Coon 1-4 1-6 0-0 1 2 3

30 Devyn Barton 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 3 0

Totals 3-14 14-46 12-16 25 18 43

Bedford NL 9 17 12 10 – 48

Castle 11 7 11 14 – 43

Turnovers – BNL 17, Castle 10

Field goal percentage – BNL 15-39 (.385); Castle 14-46 (.304)

Free throw percentage – BNL 14-19 (.737); Castle 12-16 (.750)

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