By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – When the basketball refuses to find its home – and Bedford North Lawrence seems to be fitting a square ball in a round rim right now – defense is the happy place. The ball never listens, as Happy Gilmore can testify. Defense never falls on deaf ears.
The seventh-ranked Stars, still burning some water in the offensive gas, took away Jennings County’s engine with a tag-team, relentless-pursuit performance. And they heard some noise from the machinery as Irye Gomez hit the ignition switch to turn the wheels on a key victory.
Gomez scored 16 points as the Stars bounced back from their first loss with a 52-44 conquest of the Panthers on Tuesday night. BNL (5-1) took control in the second half, finally churning to a double-digit lead after a fierce battle during the first 20 minutes, while winning the Hoosier Hills Conference opener.
Jennings (3-1) did not submit easily. The Panthers had not forgotten the 64-32 beatdown in last year’s sectional final. They made life miserable for BNL scoring leaders Chloe McKnight and Chloe Spreen, who were a combined 4-of-20 from the field.
BNL has more weapons. Gomez, the gum-chomping senior wing, had a huge fourth quarter. Karsyn Norman had 7 straight points during a crucial phase, and Haley Deckard came off the bench for 6 points and 6 boards.
That covers the scoring stars. The real story was those who covered JC ace Addyson Kent. In case anyone had forgotten, the Missouri S&T recruit ripped BNL for 27 points during last year’s regular-season clash. She had exploded for 53 points in JC’s last two wins. This Kent was not Supergirl this time.
Kent will be having flashbacks to this night as Norman and Jenna Louden chased her like hounds on a fox’s trail. While 6-0 freshman center Juliann Woodard announced her presence and future greatness with 18 points, Kent hit one shot. That’s the real reason BNL conquered Jennings for the 20th consecutive time.
This triumph was never easy. Jennings, playing back-to-back nights after topping Scottsburg on Monday, was worthy with its own defensive grit. The first half featured six deadlocks as both teams struggled to sustain any attack.
The Stars had two key spurts. The first came midway through the third quarter as Gomez cut to a layup off a McKnight pass, McKnight stroked her first trey, and Carlee Kern raced to a layup following a Gomez steal for a 33-24 advantage.
The second surge came in the fourth with a Gomez corner 3-pointer, two Spreen free throws and another McKnight bomb for a 48-36 lead. That would be enough.
“The big thing is seeing the ball go in the basket,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “We had some success, we have a ways to go to get back to where we were. When the ball goes in the basket, it’s a much easier game.”
Gomez did that the most. McKnight had 9 points and 8 rebounds, and BNL got 14 points from its bench.
“What we were doing to Kent, they were doing to Chloe,” Allen said. “I really needed those kids to step up. Irye did a great job, and Karsyn made some plays. They’re very capable scorers. I think we have other options.
“Haley is such a calming influence for our team. Every time we put her in there, it seems like our kids feel very confident.”
Kent couldn’t make a move without a BNL shadow, but that left interior room for Woodard. And she was impressive while hitting 8 of 10 shots and grabbing 7 rebounds. Brooke Mowery added 10 points.
Jennings didn’t focus on any BNL scouting report until the pre-game discussion, but JC coach Kristi Sigler didn’t have to say much.
“Play hard,” Sigler said. “That’s what we’ve talked to our kids about since February, when we lost on our home floor by 32. You have to have pride on the defensive end, and you have to value the basketball. Those were two keys with zero days of preparation.
“All I asked was show me your guts, show me your heart. I could not be happier with the effort. You’re seeing us as a different team this year. Before we see them again, and hopefully we do, we have to find ways to get Addyson cleaner looks.”
BNL got several clean looks and missed from point-blank range. The Stars were 16 of 43 from the field. This is still a team capable of offensive explosion, and Allen can’t wait for that volcano to blow.
“It’s just contagious sometimes,” he shrugged. “For some reason we have it. When we get it corrected, we’ll be something to deal with. We have to put shots in the basket. Holding them to 44 points is a good job. But we’re missing shots we normally make. It’s something the kids will have to correct on their own.”
BNL will continue its four-game swing through the league, hosting New Albany on Saturday afternoon.
JENNINGS COUNTY PANTHERS (44)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
33 Lily Ernstes, f 0-0 2-5 2-2 7 2 6
00 Juliann Woodward, f 0-0 8-10 2-2 7 3 18
5 Addyson Kent, g 1-9 1-11 0-0 3 2 3
11 Brooke Mowery, g 2-4 3-7 2-2 4 2 10
14 Kali Thompson, g 1-5 1-5 0-0 1 4 3
31 Kenna Maschino 0-0 1-2 0-0 1 1 2
20 Alivia Elmore 0-0 1-4 0-0 0 2 2
22 Megan Vogel 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Totals 4-18 17-44 6-6 25 17 44
BEDFORD NL STARS (52)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
22 Irye Gomez, f 2-5 6-12 2-4 4 1 16
11 Chloe McKnight, f 2-7 2-11 3-4 8 2 9
2 Chloe Spreen, f 0-2 2-9 2-2 7 5 6
21 Karsyn Norman, g 1-2 2-5 2-2 2 0 7
23 Jenna Louden, g 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 2 0
40 Haley Deckard 0-0 1-2 4-6 6 0 6
12 Makena Moore 0-0 1-1 1-2 1 0 3
24 Carlee Kern 0-0 2-2 1-2 0 0 5
Totals 5-15 16-43 15-22 31 10 52
Jennings Co. 7 11 12 14 – 44
Bedford NL 8 12 18 14 – 52
Turnovers – Jennings County 17, BNL 15
Field goal percentage – Jennings County 17-44 (.386); BNL 16-43 (.372)
Free throw percentage – Jennings County 6-6 (1.000); BNL 15-22 (.682)