McKnight’s fire burns East as Stars blaze to 74-54 victory

BNL’s Irye Gomez breaks free for a layup. Gomez scored 22 points as the Stars conquered Columbus East 74-54 on Tuesday night.

By Justin Sokeland

WBIW.com

BEDFORD – Her first shot was an air ball, way over the rim, and if this game had been played away from the home comforts of BNL Fieldhouse, that mocking chant would have haunted her. Her team missed its first 10, and there was murmuring, mumbling, concern.

And then fire flew from Chloe McKnight’s fingertips.

Bedford North Lawrence, is dire need of a jolt, got juiced. McKnight exploded, like a supernova in deep space, like the Death Star when Luke’s torpedoes hit that exhaust port. At one point during the McKnight blast, Columbus East coach Danny Brown turned to the scorer’s bench, asking “How many does she have? 50?”

Not quite, but it seemed that way.

McKnight erupted for a career-high 33 points, hitting 7 3-pointers, while rescuing the No.14 Stars from offensive despondency to shoot down the Olympians 74-54 on Tuesday night. Irye Gomez added 22 points as BNL (13-4) improved to 5-1 in the Hoosier Hills Conference, still alive in the quest to defend its title share.

From its feeble beginning, BNL flexed some offensive firepower as McKnight shot holes in East’s zone. She has seen so little of that defense this season, she almost forgot what it looked like. But once that first shot went down, with 52 seconds left in the first quarter, the memories sparked and the stroke returned.

BNL trailed 11-2 when she finally ended that frustrating team slump, still trailed 13-7 after the opening period. Then the junior shooter with the family pedigree of prolific scorers took over. Bang! Swish! Boom! Treys rained down as the Stars stormed back, finally taking the lead at 26-25 on Madison Webb’s reverse layup with 1:16 left in the half.

BNL’s Madison Webb works in the post. Webb had 9 points and 9 rebounds.

McKnight finished the half with 17 points and BNL closed with an anxious 31-25 advantage. But the stage was set. When Gomez caught fire as well, scoring 9 points during a third-quarter rush, the Olympians (10-7) were doomed.

Explain it? How does a team go from frigid to furnace without warning? Inexplicable.

“That’s basketball,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “Sometimes it’s a much easier game when the ball goes in the basket. We missed some shots we normally make, which tends to frustrate kids. We finally got a few to fall, relaxed and played the way we should. I don’t know why that happens, but as soon as you get a few to go down, it’s a different basketball team.”

McKnight was the difference. The seven treys are not a record. Brittani Rizzi drilled 9 against New Albany during the 2013 sectional. That was during a blowout. This was when McKnight’s floundering team needed it desperately.

“We only had one point, so I decided I needed to step up, hit some shots and get our energy going,” McKnight said. “It doesn’t really bother me if I miss a shot. I just think if I shoot it again, I’ll make the next one.”

That’s a universal shooter’s creed. She did make the next, and the next . . .

BNL’s Gracie Crulo-Rood fights for a rebound with East’s Koryn Greiwe.

“We even had a hand in her face a couple of times,” East coach Danny Brown said. “But she got too loose too many times. She was the difference in the game. I’ve seen it so many times. A team that can shoot can overcome a lot of things.”

The numbers went from abstract to absurd, in a good way. After the 0-for-10 opening, the Stars finished 24 of their next 42. After missing their first 4 bonus bombs, they went 10 of the next 15. McKnight and Gomez were a combined 18 of 23 overall. Wow.

“Both of those kids can put up some points,” Allen said. “They picked up the slack for us. We did a good job of staying with it until we got in front, then plays came a little easier. Chloe’s doing a good job of being patient. She’s not forcing stuff. She’s come a long way with her game this year.”

Brown lamented the fact East didn’t expand its lead to greater distance while BNL was struggling. BNL’s hole could have easily been 13 or 15, given the fact the Olympians were spotted a seven-minute head start.

Koryn Greiwe, East’s leading scorer, had 17 points but was harassed into a 6-for-19 shooting night. Albany Speer added 11, not enough to keep East from dropping its ninth straight in the series.

Webb added 9 points and 9 rebounds for BNL, which won its sixth straight overall and 10th in a row against in-state competition.

The Stars will finish the conference slate while hosting Floyd Central on Saturday afternoon.

BNL’s Haley Deckard looks for an open teammate in the middle of East’s zone defense.

COLUMBUS EAST OLYMPIANS (54)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

23 Leah Bachmann, f 0-0 2-4 0-1 3 5 4

32 Gabby Dean, c 0-0 1-3 0-0 5 1 2

2 Koryn Greiwe, g 2-6 6-19 3-6 2 1 17

14 Whitley Rankin, g 3-3 4-5 1-2 1 2 12

15 Kaitlyn Dougherty, g 1-5 1-6 0-0 3 0 3

22 Emma Jenkins 0-0 0-1 0-0 2 2 0

20 Saige Stahl 0-0 2-3 1-2 2 2 5

3 Albany Speer 2-2 4-4 1-1 0 2 11

25 Kaitlyn Carothers 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

21 Brielle Stevens 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

5 Heidi Murphy 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 8-16 20-45 6-11 24 16 54

BEDFORD NL STARS (74)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

22 Irye Gomez, f 2-4 9-11 2-4 1 2 22

32 Madison Webb, c 0-0 4-11 1-4 9 1 9

11 Chloe McKnight, g 7-9 9-12 8-8 7 1 33

24 Gracie Crulo-Rood, g 0-0 0-3 3-4 2 2 3

21 Karsyn Norman, g 1-4 1-8 0-0 2 3 3

23 Jenna Louden 0-0 0-1 0-0 3 2 0

40 Haley Deckard 0-0 1-2 1-2 4 1 3

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

12 Makena Moore 0-1 0-2 0-0 2 0 0

20 Carlee Kern 0-0 0-0 1-2 0 1 1

44 Grace Kinser 0-1 0-1 0-0 1 0 0

Totals 10-19 24-52 16-24 34 14 74

Col. East 13 12 8 21 – 54

Bedford NL 7 24 21 22 – 74

Turnovers – East 18, BNL 9

Field goal percentage – East 20-45 (.444); BNL 24-52 (.462)

Free throw percentage – East 6-11 (.545); BNL 16-24 (.667)

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