North peels off clinging Stars for 66-47 victory in season opener

BLOOMINGTON – BNL’s Colton Staggs drives against a defender during the season opener on Tuesday night. Staggs scored 21 points, but the Cougars rolled to a 66-47 win.

By Justin Sokeland

BLOOMINGTON – They hung on, like cockleburs on the pants after a walk through high grass. Quite a nuisance, those stickers. They can’t be brushed off, they must be physically and painstakingly removed.

Bedford North Lawrence, outgunned in every phase except toughness, clung like static-charged socks. The crackling could be heard as Bloomington North, piece by stubborn piece, peeled away and pulled away to a season-opening triumph.

Nick Klaiber muscled his way to 18 points, most of it in the paint over undersized defenders, as the Cougars conquered the Stars 66-47 on Tuesday night. Nate Hoffman added 15 points, most from long distance, and North beat BNL for the fourth consecutive time.

The Stars, considerable underdogs when viewed from the perspective of the measuring stick and recruited talent, went down harder than expected. They clawed to a 20-20 deadlock early in the second quarter, but North’s 12-2 run created breathing space, and BNL never got closer than seven (the final time at 46-39) after that.

Colton Staggs scored a career-high 21 points, most of that after getting shackled with three fouls in the first 2:44. He never came out – that was a gamble BNL coach Jeff Hein had to take, with no real alternative. But the Stars lacked the firepower to threaten North’s lead.

“We kept ourselves in the ballgame,” Hein said. “There wasn’t a whole lot more we could ask. They had a couple of big runs on us, those hurt. But we didn’t give up. We kept competing, we kept battling. We were obviously undersized but we found ways to stay in the game. Very proud of our effort.

“It was a great game for us to start against a good opponent. We got better.”

BLOOMINGTON – BNL’s Dylan Nikirk looks for a way past North’s Marco Fitch. Nikirk scored 4 points.

The Stars started hot, with Staggs scoring three times and Kaedyn Bennett hitting two shots as BNL blistered to a 17-15 advantage. But then the Cougars answered with their own thermal explosion, hitting 7 of 8 shots to start the second quarter. Klaiber, a force in the paint with his ability to score over someone smaller, did the most damage during that deciding run.

North, taking advantage of BNL mistakes against the 1-2-2 press, rumbled to a 34-25 lead at the half, and that gap was constant from there. North’s biggest lead was 13 (52-39 on Marco Fitch’s wing 3-pointer in transition) until the Cougars scored the final 8 points when Hein went to his bench for the last 2:12.

Klaiber hit six straight shots in the first half, and all were the mid-range jumpers many have forgotten about. Everybody wants to dunk or bomb treys, and he did neither.

“Just being able to make a play, either off the bounce or a pass into the post,” North coach Jason Speer said. “He was able to get a half-step on them and make some plays.”

BLOOMINGTON – BNL sophomore Trace Rynders launches a 3-pointer. Rynders hit two from long range in the first half.

“He’s good, strong, quick,” Hein said. “I thought Dylan (Nikirk) did a great job defending him, he’s just a nice player. He was able to jump over Dylan and get some stuff. He hit some tough shots, and that’s all you can ask the defense to do.”

Fitch finished with 12 points while 6-8 junior and coveted recruit J.Q Roberts had 9 (although he was only 3 of 11, most from the periemeter) plus 8 rebounds.

Bennett totaled 14 points for the Stars, while Rynders collected 6 boards with his 6 points. BNL’s downfall was ultimately five turnovers during the second-quarter slippage.

“We got our transition game going, and they missed a couple of good looks we didn’t contest all that well,” Speer said. “You have to defend them in space. They handle the ball extremely well. It was a hard-fought game on the perimeter. I think both of us will say we learned a lot about our team.“

BNL will return to action on Dec. 3 in the home opener against Bloomington South.

BLOOMINGTON – BNL coach Jeff Hein makes a point with an official.


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

4 Kaedyn Bennett, f 3-7 4-8 3-4 4 1 14

40 Jett Jones, f 0-1 1-5 0-0 0 3 2

22 Colton Staggs, g 3-5 8-18 2-2 3 3 21

1 Trace Rynders, g 2-5 2-5 0-0 6 0 6

10 Dylan Nikirk, g 0-0 2-3 0-0 3 4 4

44 Vince Moutardier 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 0 0

14 Kole Bailey 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

20 Dylan Endris 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

23 Memphis Louden 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 8-18 17-40 5-6 19 12 47


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

24 J.Q. Roberts, f 1-7 3-11 2-3 8 1 9

31 Bril Kante, f 2-2 2-2 0-0 4 2 6

5 Nate Hoffman, g 4-9 5-11 1-2 3 2 15

10 Marco Fitch, g 2-5 5-11 0-0 4 3 12

1 Nick Klaiber, g 0-0 7-10 4-4 4 1 18

33 Lucas Vencel 0-0 2-2 0-0 2 0 4

2 Dawan Daniels 0-0 0-0 2-2 1 0 2

23 Gavin Reed 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 9-24 24-49 9-11 27 13 66

Bedford NL 17 8 12 10 – 47

Bl. North 15 19 12 20 – 66

Turnovers – BNL 13, North 10

Field goal percentage – BNL 17-40 (.425); North 24-49 (.490)

Free throw percentage – BNL 5-6 (.833); North 9-11 (.818)