By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Bedford North Lawrence will start the chase for Win No.10 when the Stars face New Albany in the opening round of the Class 4A sectional at New Albany.
The No.3 Stars, 18-2 entering the final week of the regular season, are the nine-time defending sectional champions and the undisputed favorites. They will tangle with the Bulldogs (6-14) in the second game on Feb. 2. Jennings County (13-6) will meet Seymour (8-9) in the opener that night at 5:30 p.m.
Floyd Central (6-13) will await the JC-Seymour winner in the first semifinal on Feb. 5, while Jeffersonville (5-11) will clash with the BNL-New Albany winner in the second semifinal. The championship is set for Feb. 6.
“I love playing on Tuesday,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said after the pairings were announced by the IHSAA. “I wish it were the early game, and we’re playing New Albany on their home floor, which is always a concern. But I like the way we’re playing right now.”
BNL already owns a 73-34 victory over New Albany on Dec. 5. Chloe Spreen had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Chloe McKnight added 14 points and Irye Gomez totaled 13. Maleea Roland had 14 points for New Albany.
Of course, the Stars could make a similar claim about most of the sectional field. Only Jennings County, a 52-44 victim on Dec. 1, stayed within single digits. That potential rematch would not happen until the final.
“I don’t think I’ve ever won a sectional because I got a good draw,” Allen said. “It’s all based on how you’re playing when you go in there, and we’re playing well right now.”
After battling through a tough regular season, which will end on Thursday against Martinsville, Allen believes the Stars are well equipped to handle the pressure as the favorites.
“You have to trust your process and your program,” Allen said. “Hopefully we’ve prepared our kids for what we want to accomplish in the postseason. We’ve worked on it all season. It comes down to going out and performing.
“Every night, everyone is playing like it’s the last game of their season, so you get everyone’s best shot. Everyone will play us as hard as they absolutely can. So you can’t take plays off, you have to focus. You have to be able to sustain runs and counter them. We’ve played a tough schedule, which prepares you to do that.”
Jennings County already owns a 57-39 triumph over the Owls on Dec. 8.
The sectional champion will advance to the two-game regional, which will include sectional winners from Evansville Harrison (featuring Castle), East Central (with East Central facing Columbus East in the opener) and Franklin on Feb. 13.