By Justin Sokeland
COLUMBUS – In a moment, just when the favorite looked a little lost and vulnerable, just when momentum was about to switch sides like a bandwagon fan, Bedford North Lawrence clicked into devastation mode.
A hard-earned double-digit lead was shrinking fast, and Evansville North could sense the fragility. One more bucket, and the walls of invincibility would crack, possibly crumble. The walls tumbled down, for sure. On top of the Huskies.
The Stars corrected course with a sensational close to the third quarter, burning North in the jet blast as No.15 BNL roared away to a 21-point lead and conquered the Huskies 55-40 in the Class 4A regional semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
Madison Webb, a hero of postseasons past, scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, powering BNL (20-5) to the championship game against red-hot East Central (23-5) in a rematch of a regular-season clash. The Stars will chase their 13th regional crown, while the Trojans will seek their first.
Irye Gomez added 13 points for the Stars, who chained the Huskies with ferocious defense and that blazing burst in the third quarter, a 14-1 breakout that was the difference. North (20-6) couldn’t shoot straight enough to erase that deficit.
BNL bullied to a 24-12 halftime lead, then opened the third with letdown turnovers and impatient shots. For a few minutes, the Huskies finally found their shooting range as Maddie Haynes swished a corner trey and Kenna Hisle popped a wing 15-footer. The margin was 29-21.
And then the monster awoke.
Gomez worked loose for a layup, Chloe McKnight got free for a 3-pointer, Webb rumbled through the paint for 3-point play, Norman scored in transition, and Makena Moore scored from point-blank range off a Webb pass. Boom, that eruption gave the Stars a 43-22 advantage, and North was doomed.
“The third quarter has been good to us,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I’ve got kids that pay attention to what we talk about in the locker room and try to apply it on the floor. Right now they’re playing with confidence. We really switched the momentum.”
Webb was huge, in every sense. Not only did she bust holes in North’s interior, she was a swatter and stopper on the other end. North center Kaliah Neighbors became a non-factor, and the Huskies were reduced to a perimeter assault that did not work. North shot a misery-index 26 percent, including 5 of 24 from distance.
“She’s a load inside to handle,” North coach Tyler Choate said of the Webb that ensnared his Huskies. “I thought she did a really good job on Neighbors. If you break down the game, that was a big component.
“The third quarter, that’s credit to them. It was nothing we did wrong. Basketball is a game of runs. We went on ours. They responded. It wasn’t what we did, it was more what Bedford did.”
The other key juncture was the opening. The Stars surged in front 10-2 on a McKnight trey and Gomez layup in the first six minutes. Then Webb started to flex her post power in the second quarter, and the Huskies were a little nervous and a lot shell-shocked.
“With a team as good as Bedford, you have to get off to a great start,” Choate said. “And we just didn’t. We didn’t shoot well, and all credit goes to them.”
BNL wasn’t its usual self in terms of execution and offensive style. That’s when defense becomes a sturdy foundation. North couldn’t score enough to make the Stars uncomfortable.
“We held them to what – 12 points in the first half?” Allen said. “I didn’t know if we could duplicate that, because they’re pretty good. But from an energy standpoint, we played hard. We didn’t play as clean as I would like, but for us to beat that team by 15 – and I don’t think we played great – I’m really happy with that.
“I don’t think our execution was as good as it has been, but it’s the first game of the regional. There’s a little bit of nerves out there. But we made hustle plays when we needed them, Maddie got some scores in the paint, the guard did a great job of finding people in transition.”
Hisle finished with 13 points but needed 17 shots to get those. North’s two other double-digit scorers (Neighbors and Gabby Joyner) combined for 7 total.
BNL had more firepower. Norman totaled 8 points, and the Stars had an 11-point advantage from the foul line. BNL still hasn’t allowed more than 40 points this postseason. All it had to do was shake off the one North threat.
“Most team are going to go on a run,” Webb said. “So it’s important to get up early and keep that lead. There was so much energy. We were hitting shots, moving the ball really wel, and we got open baskets.”
“All in all, I’m happy,” Allen said. “If you told me in September, we’d be here right now, I would have been thrilled. We’ve come so far. And we’ve got more basketball to play.
In the first semifinal:
East Central 50, Franklin Central 42: The Trojans rallied from a 23-18 halftime deficit with a critical third-quarter run, giving up only three points in those eight minutes to the Flashes (15-12).
Freshman forward Josie Trabel led the Trojan charge with 9 third-quarter points and 17 total. Charsan McCory added 12 points and her sister Brilan totaled 10. East Central extended its winning streak to 11 games.
Franklin Central’s Rachel Loobie, a Central Michigan recruit, had 22 points for the Flashes. She had 16 in the first half, including 4 treys, but was silenced in the second half.
BEDFORD NL STARS (55)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
22 Irye Gomez, f 1-3 4-11 4-4 3 4 13
32 Madison Webb, c 0-0 5=9 6=7 11 2 16
11 Chloe McKnight, g 2-6 2-7 0-0 6 4 6
24 Gracie Crulo-Rood, g 0-0 0-2 4-5 2 1 4
21 Karsyn Norman, g 0-2 3-7 2-4 3 0 8
23 Jenna Louden 0-0 1-1 2-6 3 2 4
40 Haley Deckard 0-0 0-1 0-0 3 0 0
12 Makena Moore 0-1 2-3 0-0 2 0 4
20 Carlee Kern 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0
50 Peyton Sweet 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 3-12 17-41 18-26 36 13 55
EVANSVILLE NORTH HUSKIES (40)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
12 Kenna Hisle, f 1-5 4-17 4-6 10 4 13
33 Kaliah Neighbors, f 0-0 1-2 0-0 3 4 2
14 Gabby Joyner, f 0-4 2-13 1-1 5 4 5
1 Maddie Haynes, g 1-8 1-8 0-0 2 5 3
10 Kaylee Martin, g 1-3 2-6 0-0 4 1 5
3 Jadin Green 1-2 1-3 0-0 0 2 3
30 Jalyn Shelby 0-0 2-3 0-0 2 0 4
11 Kylie Osborne 1-2 1-2 2-3 0 0 5
Totals 5-24 14-53 7-10 30 20 40
Bedford NL 12 12 19 12 – 55
Evan. North 5 7 13 15 – 40
Turnovers – BNL 12, Evan, North 10
Field goal percentage – BNL 17-41 (.415); Evan. North 14-53 (.264)
Free throw percentage – BNL 18-26 (.692); Evan. North 7-10 (.700)