By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Anyone who has walked through the hallway where the state championship team photos adorn the walls, anyone who has stared up at the banners waving softly in the northeast corner of BNL Fieldhouse, knows the impact of Austin “Pete” Pritchett.
He’s the Godfather of Bedford North Lawrence basketball, the Hall of Fame coach, the giant gentleman who directed the Stars to two state championships and established the program as one of Indiana’s best. Everything linked to the tradition of BNL centers on the bear of a man who towered over his kids and demanded their best.
BNL will again honor Pritchett, who mentored great teams and three consecutive Mental Attitude Award winners, with his name on the Limestone Classic Holiday Tournament on Tuesday.
The Class 4A No.7 Stars (9-1) will open the two-game event against Class 2A No.10 Eastern Pekin (5-3) at 10 a.m., followed by the second game between Class 2A No.1 Linton (11-0) and Heritage Christian (8-4). The first-round losers will return to clash in the consolation at 6 p.m., while the winners will battle for the title at 7:30.
Forest Park was originally scheduled to face BNL in the opener, but the Rangers were forced to withdraw from the event late on Sunday.
The Stars are constantly reminded of the tradition they uphold, and this four-team tilt packs a lot of firepower in terms of outstanding teams and spectacular individuals. BNL will need its best.
“Playing on our home floor, we always take a lot of pride in that,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “We want to win.
“They understand because they know what’s expected when you put on that Lady Stars uniform. It comes from tradition that was started with Pete Pritchett, and carried on. We’ve tried to uphold that tradition where we play extremely hard, we play the game the right way.”
Eastern’s tradition is more recent but impressive. The Musketeers won the Class 2A state championship in 2017 and reached back-to-back regional finals the last two seasons. Eastern coach Michael McBride was an assistant coach with the Indiana All-Stars in 2019, the year BNL’s Jorie Allen was named Miss Basketball.
The Musketeers opened this season with wins over Borden (58-25) and Crawford County (46-38). They have dropped decisions to North Harrison (53-50), Salem (61-42) and Brownstown (54-40). They also won a win over familiar BNL foe New Albany (55-38) and a recent two-game streak of triumphs over West Washington (39-24) and Clarksville (62-20).
Eastern will feature balance with senior guard Kendra Sill (9.6 points), senior guard Shelbi Patton (8.3) and sophomore Kyia McKinley (7.5), plus firepower off the bench with McKenna Jeter (10.8).
“We try to play up-tempo, and we have the guards to shoot it,” McBride said. “We play man-to-man and base everything off our defense, we try our best to get stops.
Eastern had holes in the schedule with cancellations against Mitchell and New Washington. McBride will be scrambling to prepare a scouting report for the Stars on short notice.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get two games,” McBride said. “Our goal was to play a game this week, and when I walked off the floor after practice at 11:30, there was the email. It’ll be good for us. It’ll be interesting to try to figure something out.”
BNL will counter with its four-pronged fork attack of freshman Chloe Spreen (15.3), senior Chloe McKnight (14.4), senior Irye Gomez (12.4) and sophomore Karsyn Norman (9.3). The Stars will use the two-game day as preparation for a possible regional run in February.
“I like the regional format because it’s great training for the postseason,” Allen said. “I think it’s going to be a great tournament with some outstanding players, and some challenging games. We know they’re solid programs having great years.”
Linton vs. Heritage Christian: In Game 2, the dynamite Miners, the defending 2A state champions, will clash with one of the power squads in central Indiana, and there’s plenty of talent on both teams.
Linton will feature the dynamic duo of forward Vanessa Shafford (19.0) and Aubrey Burgess (17.5), a pair of University of Southern Indiana recruits, plus 6-0 senior center Haley Rose (14.0).
The Miners are fifth in the state in scoring (70.5) and second in winning margin (41.6), but Heritage Christian will be only the third 3A team Linton has faced.
“We’ll find out what we can do well against really good teams,” said Linton coach Jared Rehmel, who has guided the Miners to three straight 20-plus win seasons after Linton won only 16 total games the previous six years. “That’s why we’re playing.“
The Eagles, who have already made one trip to BNL Fieldhouse this season (facing BNL in the preseason scrimmage), will counter with the best player in the tourney in Michigan recruit Ariana Wiggins, a Miss Basketball contender who is averaging 27.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Senior forward Tyranny Brown is contributing 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds.
LIMESTONE CLASSIC HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
Honoring Pete Pritchett
Eastern Pekin at BNL
When: Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Records: Eastern Pekin 5-3, ranked No.10 in Class 2A; BNL 9-1, ranked No.7 in Class 4A
Sagarin ratings: Eastern Pekin 69.58; BNL 98.32
Last meeting: This is the first game between the teams.
Game notes: BNL is hosting this tournament for the first time since 2016-17. The Stars last won this event in 2015. Eastern won the Class 2A state title in 2017.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Irye Gomez 5-9 Sr.
F – Chloe McKnight 5-9 Sr.
F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 Fr.
G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 So.
G – Jenna Louden 5-6 Sr.
Eastern Pekin Musketeers
F – Kyia McKinley 5-11 So.
G – Ava Sowder 5-8 So.
G – Shelby Casey 5-6 Sr.
G – Shelbi Patton 5-7 Sr.
G – Kendra Sill 5-9 Sr.
LINTON vs. HERITAGE CHRISTIAN
When: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.
Records: Linton 11-0, ranked No.1 in Class 2A; Heritage Christian 8-4
Sagarin ratings: Linton 90.16; Heritage Christian 86.19
Last meeting: This is the first game between the teams.
Game notes: Linton is the defending 2A state champion. Heritage Christian won seven state championships from 2006-2016 under former coach Rick Risinger.
F – Gentry Warrick 6-0 Jr.
F – Vanessa Shafford 5-10 Sr.
C – Haley Rose 6-0 Sr.
G – Jaylee Hayes 5-9 Jr.
G – Aubrey Burgess 5-6 Sr.
Heritage Christian Eagles
F – Tyranny Brown 5-8 Sr.
C – Courtney Lee 6-0 Sr.
G – Ariana Wiggins 5-8 Sr.
G – Jazmine Williams 5-6 Sr.
G – Audrey Booher 5-7 Jr.