By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Two weeks, in basketball terms, can seem like the Long Night, when skills freeze from idleness, when the winter of dormancy descends on the program. For two weeks, Bedford North Lawrence was quarantined into darkness.
The Stars, shut down by a virus exposure and forced to the sideline, returned from exile with practice sessions on Dec. 23. They’ll make their competition restart on Wednesday, hosting Scottsburg in the first round of the reconfigured Danny Bush Classic.
Just before turning the lights off, BNL (2-2) was starting to shine, winning two straight road games after two concerning losses. The offense, absent and abysmal, had discovered the ‘on’ position. Then, with the flick of a positive test switch, BNL reverted back to the beginning.
“I could tell there was shell shock into getting back into what we were doing,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. “It looked like they hadn’t played in a couple of weeks and looked really rusty.
“I felt we were playing really well. You’re a step slow when you take that many days off. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I don’t ever remember taking more than three or four days off in row. Two weeks is really difficult.”
The Stars will have had five practice sessions to scour off the rust before facing the Warriors (2-5) in the opening game of the event at 10 a.m. Castle (0-3) will meet Milan (2-3) in the second game. The losers will clash in the consolation game at 6 p.m., followed by the final between the winners at 7:30.
That format has been altered from its original schedule. The Classic was set for eight teams, with each playing four games over two days. The event, to accommodate virus concerns, has been split in half and condensed into one day, with Bloomington North hosting Owen Valley, Eastern Greentown and University in the other bracket.
Scottsburg, despite the record, will demand attention. The Warriors feature two outstanding scorers in senior Treyton Owens (18.6) and junior Hayden Cutter (18.9), plus promising freshman Kody Clancy (9.6).
“That concerns me,” Hein said. “We were able to win but gave up a lot of points to East (a 68-66 triumph). Scottsburg reminds me some of that, in that they have different weapons. Are we able to stop them?
“Cutter is really nice inside. He posts up well, he’s strong, he has a nice jump shot. Owens has been a good player (with over 1,000 career points) for a long time, and the freshman is playing well. He shoots it well and handles it well. He looks more and more comfortable every game.
“You can see they’re starting to hit their stride. You can see them getting better. They’ve got firepower, some different options to score.”
The Warriors, under first-year coach Eric Richardson, suffered four straight losses before rebounding with an 83-63 victory over rival Austin last week. Owens had 26 points, Cutter totaled 25 and Clancy hit five 3-pointers en route to 17 on that win. Owens (30 against Corydon) and Cutter (four games over 20) have had other explosive performances.
BNL, with its numbers slightly askew from the two anemic scoring games to open the campaign, will counter with senior Kooper Staley (9.5 after his 26-point eruption at East), sophomore Colten Leach (12.0) and senior Ben Cosner (8.3). The Stars will have to count on them, and others, to survive.
“I’d like to play the bench a little deeper in this tournament, without having practiced a whole lot,” Hein said. “It’ll be important to get some lifts from kids off the bench.
“The way we shared the ball at East, with more assists than we did the first three games combined, that’s the way we’ll have to play to be successful.”
Richardson is a Scottsburg alum (1993) who played college basketball at Milligan before assistant coaching positions at Gardner Webb, Elon and Hanover. The Warriors are still in the adjustment phase.
“It’s going well,” Richardson said “It’s still a process for those guys to know what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to do. It will take a little while, but I’m very fortunate to lead this group
“BNL plays really hard. Staley looks like he’s shooting the ball well right now and they’re a physical team. That concerns me the most, keeping them off the glass and matching their physicality.
“Our win over Austin was huge. We lost a couple of close games over the last couple weeks, so getting a win against the county rival was good going into this tough tournament.”
Milan vs. Castle: In the second game, the Indians will seek their third straight victory after conquering Monrovia (58-56) and Batesville (60-58 in double overtime).
Milan has three returning starters back from last season, when the Indians stunned BNL in the opening round of this tournament. They will count on Carsyn Ascherman (15 points per game), Adam Norman (14.0) and Peyton Wert (13.0).
“Like most everybody else, even though we return four of our top five from last season, we are struggling with getting caught up due to our lack of an offseason,” Milan coach Randy Combs said. “We have been getting better, and I’ve been around the block a few times so I know you want to be playing well in January and February. We are on track to do that.
“It was in this tournament last season that we started to turn the corner a bit, and it is our goal for that to happen again.”
Castle’s record is quite deceiving because of the competition level (its opponents have a combined record of 13-4). The Knights will feature electric senior guard Isaiah Swope, who’s averaging 26.0 points, and veteran interior presence Bob Nunge.
“Castle obviously is a very formidable opponent,” Combs said. “The chance to play them represents what you want in a tournament like this, a chance to challenge yourself and to compete outside your comfort zone. We are looking forward to the chance to compete against some very good and tradition-rich programs.”
DANNY BUSH CLASSIC
Round 1 at BNL
SCOTTSBURG at BNL
When: Wednesday, 10 a.m.
Records: Scottsburg 2-5; BNL 2-2
Sagarin ratings: Scottsburg 53.26; BNL 79.76
Last meeting: On Feb. 22, 2010, BNL recorded a 74-59 victory.
Game notes: BNL leads the series 16-2. Scottsburg’s last win against the Stars came in 2008, a 92-76 overtime triumph. Scottsburg has not won in BNL Fieldhouse since the first game of the series during the 1978-79 season.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Ben Cosner 6-3 Sr.
F – Jackson Miracle 6-5 Sr.
G – Kooper Staley 6-1 Sr.
G – Colten Leach 6-2 So.
G – Aden Pemberton 5-11 Sr.
F – Hayden Cutter 6-4 Jr.
F – Dalton Daniels 6-2 Sr.
F – Javis Roush 6-1 Jr.
G – Treyton Owens 6-1 Sr.
G – Kody Clancy 5-11 Fr.
CASTLE vs. MILAN
When: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.
Records: Castle 0-3; Milan 2-3
Sagarin ratings: Castle 79.71; Milan 53.47
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the teams.
Game notes: Milan played in last year’s BNL tournament and went 2-2 with wins over BNL and Evansville Harrison.
F – Bob Nunge 6-5 Sr.
C – Dylan Watson 6-8 So.
G – Caleb Niehaus 6-0 Jr.
G – Zeke Niehaus 6-2 Sr.
G – Isaiah Swope 5-10 Sr.
F – Adam Norman 6-2 Sr.
F – Carsyn Ascherman 6-5 Sr.
C – Evan Miller 6-6 Sr.
G – Peyton Wert 6-0 Sr.
G – Josh Clark 5-11 Sr.