Stars divine while winning 9th straight sectional title

NORTH VERNON – BNL’s Madison Webb scored 18 points as the Stars slammed Jennings County 64-32 in the sectional final on Saturday night.

By Justin Sokeland

WBIW.com

NORTH VERNON – Bedford North Lawrence added another precious jewel to the crown, ascending to the throne it refuses to yield. This reign, this streak of sectional championships, is now a dynasty on a grand scale.

Nine, so divine, yet so stunning in dominance.

The Stars completed their destructive march to another coronation, crushing Jennings County in the championship clash with savagery and viciousness, with defensive tenacity unmatched, with power untamed.

No.15 BNL roared to a soul-crushing 64-32 victory over the Panthers in the Sectional 15 final on Saturday night. Madison Webb scored 18 points and Irye Gomez totaled 12 as the Stars (19-5) blasted to their ninth consecutive championship and extended their sectional winning streak to a remarkable 27 games.

They sheered the nets after tearing apart three straight sectional opponents, winning by an average of 36.7 points. Now they will charge into the regional at Columbus North, facing Evansville North (20-5 and a 56-44 winner over Castle in the final at Harrison) in the second game on Feb. 15.

East Central (22-5) and Franklin Central (15-11 and an upset winner over Center Grove) will collide in the regional opener.

Only the daring would stand in BNL’s path. After spotting the Panthers (10-15) an early 14-6 lead, the Stars destroyed Jennings, allowing only 18 points during the next 27 minutes. Defense wins championships, proven once again.

“It never gets old,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said after accepting the championship trophy and handing it to secure hands for the celebration. “It’s still as fun as the first time. Out of the nine, I’m not proud of a bunch more than this bunch.”

Webb personified this victory. She crumbled to a heap on the floor early in the second quarter, suffering a left ankle injury after stepping on an opponent’s foot. She grimaced, limped to the trainer’s room for a tape job, then returned angry. And Jennings didn’t like her when she was angry.

NORTH VERNON – BNL’s Gracie Crulo-Rood absorbs contact during a skirmish under the basket. Crulo-Rood scored 7 points.

When she reappeared, Webb went to work, grabbing an offensive rebound for a bucket, snaring another putback for a 3-point play, and powering through the post for another 3-point trip. When Chloe McKnight capped the half with a corner trey for a 29-20 lead, BNL’s nervousness was gone.

“I knew we had to win it,” Webb said. “I knew we were going to. We had to put our foot on the gas and keep going.”

Wow, when the accelerator was tromped, the Stars romped. BNL opened the third quarter with 14 straight points, leaving tire marks on the court. Karsyn Norman popped a bomb, Irye Gomez swished one from the corner, Norman raced to a layup, and Webb charged through the post for another point-blank basket. Jennings went from upset mode to just plain upset, unable to stop the inevitable.

“We knew it would be a battle with them,” Allen said of the potent JC start. “On their court. And they’re good. They battled us the first time. So we weren’t surprised by that.

“I just like the resilience of my kids. They don’t panic. They get a little frustrated and I have to calm them down, but that’s basketball. Jennings played well early, you have to give them credit. But my kids picked the energy on the defensive end.”

NORTH VERNON – Chloe McKnight looks for an opening. McKnight hit a key 3-pointer to end the first half.

BNL had to survive a Jennings barrage during the regular-season battle on Dec. 3, escaping with a 53-43 win. Addyson Kent was a long-range bombing weapon that night, netting 8 treys and totaling 27 points. The rematch? Kent, with Norman’s gaze locked on her belly button, was 1-for-10. Lily Ernstes was the catalyst of the best JC moments and finished with 10 points.

BNL was just too much. Norman finished with 11 points as BNL topped the Panthers for the 19th straight time in the series. The Panthers had no answers for Webb, no escape routes from BNL’s defensive tentacles.

“In November we had some issues we had to figure out, and man, every time we’ve stumbled, we’ve learned from it and gotten better,” Allen said. “I really like the way they’re playing.

“It just shows you how far Madi has come from her freshman year. She’s developed into a little bit of a warrior. She understands she has to put it all on the line for her team. For her to limp off and come back, I”m so proud of her. She played even more physical.”

BNL title was its 29th in program history. Gracie Crulo-Rood, one of three seniors, has never tasted defeat on this level. The start, with the Panthers making the first move, was startling. The rest, with BNL dictating so brutally, was even more stunning.

“I was a little nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Crulo-Rood said. “I was like ‘This is not good, not a good way to start out on their home floor.’ But I knew we would turn it around on the defensive end.”

“Just the fact we were down, and it was really hitting us,” Norman said. “It was do or die. We got it going.”

BNL will now chase its 13th regional title. The Stars won their last in 2018.

NORTH VERNON – BNL’s Jenna Louden attacks Jennings County’s Addyson Kent. Louden and the Stars forced 18 JC turnovers.

BEDFORD NL STARS (64)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

22 Irye Gomez, f 3-7 4-10 1-2 5 1 12

32 Madison Webb, c 0-0 7-10 4-4 5 1 18

11 Chloe McKnight, g 1-4 1-7 3-4 7 3 6

24 Gracie Crulo-Rood, g 0-0 3-6 1-1 4 1 7

21 Karsyn Norman, g 1-2 5-10 0-0 3 0 11

40 Haley Deckard 0-1 2-5 2-2 3 1 6

23 Jenna Louden 0-0 2-2 0-0 2 2 4

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

20 Carlee Kern 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

4 Emma Brown 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

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

Totals 5-15 24-52 11-13 31 10 64

JENNINGS COUNTY PANTHERS (32)

3s FGs FTs R F Pts

33 Lily Ernstes, f 0-0 5-11 0-0 7 1 10

31 Makenna Maschino, f 1-2 2-6 3-4 4 3 8

14 Kali Thompson, g 0-1 2-4 1-1 4 2 5

11 Brooke Mowery, g 0-2 1-4 0-0 2 0 2

5 Addyson Kent, g 1-10 3-13 0-0 6 2 7

22 Abi Vogel 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 1 0

2 Megan Schuler 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 0 0

12 Morgan Lane 0-2 0-4 0-0 1 4 0

23 Megan Vogel 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Totals 2-17 13-43 4-5 28 14 32

Bedford NL 10 19 24 11 – 64

Jennings Co. 14 6 7 5 – 32

Turnovers – BNL 8, Jennings 18

Field goal percentage – BNL 24-52 (.462); Jennings 13-43 (.302)

Free throw percentage – BNL 11-13 (.846); Jennings 4-5 (.800)

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