Sharp Stars carve their way past Owen Valley in Danny Bush Classic semifinal

BNL’s Colten Leach scores from close range during Tuesday’s opening round of the Danny Bush Classic. Leach’s cored 20 points as the Stars stopped Owen Valley 62-40,

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The ball movement was sharp, exquisite, virtually flawless. Whatever defense it faced – and Owen Valley tried about everything in its arsenal – Bedford North Lawrence had the trouble-shooting solution. And it was no problem at all.

With unselfish precision, with a season-low turnover total, the Stars sliced and carved their way to an impressive victory in the opening game of the third annual Danny Bush Classic on Tuesday morning. Colten Leach scored 20 points as BNL hit the highs, while Owen Valley suffered through the lows, for a 62-40 triumph.

The Stars (3-4) advanced to the championship game to face a rematch with Bloomington North, which erased Whiteland 60-45 in the second semifinal.

The event’s namesake always stressed defense and ball security during his Hall of Fame career, and he would have approved of BNL’s performance in both key areas. The Stars were guilty of only three turnovers, and they held the Patriots (3-3) to their lowest output this season (22 below their average). That will win a lot of games.

So will offensive balance. Leach dominated the first half, while Colton Staggs took over in the second and finished with 17. Trace Rynders added 8 points, and Dylan Nikirk contributed a season-high 6 off the bench.

“Good win,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. “Leach played really well in the first half for us, and Staggs picked it up in the second half. And we had contributions from a lot of spots. That was the best game Nikirk played all year, Kole (Bailey) gave us a great lift off the bench. It was a good, solid team effort.”

“Be solid.” That’s always a phrase heard from the BNL bench, usually directed at defenders. This time it applied to both ends. The Stars turned their plus-12 turnover advantage into breakaway points in transition, especially during a 16-5 run in the second half that created a comfort zone.

BNL’s Colton Staggs drives against Owen Valley’s Eli Wood. Staggs scored 17 points and added 6 rebounds.

“I knew it wasn’t very many,” Hein said when told of BNL’s miserly mistake total. “That was the difference. We were able to get out in transition and get some easy baskets that way, which always helps. Defensively we were very solid. That was a great defensive effort.”

Leach got BNL started, collecting a baseline lob for a layup and muscling into the paint for a 3-point play and a quick 11-7 lead. Owen Valley answered with its best moments, seven consecutive points as Cayden Pauquette rattled in a wing trey and 6-8 center Riley Brock scored off an offensive rebound for a brief 14-13 lead.

BNL answered to take control. Leach popped a pull-up 12-footer in transition, Trace Rynders swished a deep 3-pointer off a Leach pass, and Nikirk dashed the baseline for a bucket. Leach’s 15-footer and Bailey’s corner bomb gave the Stars a 27-19 lead at the half.

The next key surge had Staggs fingerprints on it. After missing six straight shots, he caught fire, driving the lane for a bucket, turning a steal into a runout and 3-point play. Leach added his own and-1 score in the paint, a fast-break bucket and a lob off an inbound set. Nikirk jumped a passing lane for a layup and Rynders ripped another trey for a 47-29 advantage.

BNL’s Kole Bailey slides inside for a shot. Bailey had 3 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.

Staggs finished his personal flurry with three more buckets in the fourth quarter, making his last six to offset the cold snap.

“A lot of ball movement,” Staggs said about the crispness. “We have chemistry. They tried all kinds of things and couldn’t stop us on offense. We’ve been playing a lot better. We’re all confident in each other, we look a lot more fluid.“

Pauquette, a one-man tormentor the first three quarters, totaled 20 points for Owen Valley, while Eli Wood added 13. The Patriots were hampered by their 15 turnovers, and their inability to slow down BNL. They tried man-to-man, 2-3 zone, and a halfcourt trap. Nothing worked.

“It was good to see us adjust,” Hein said. “We really tore the zone up. We were able to execute. We played unselfishly, and that’s what these kids have to do to be successful.”

BNL sophomore Trace Rynders attacks a defender. Rynders totaled 8 points.

Bloomington North 60, Whiteland 45 – J.Q. Roberts, a Div. I recruiting target, exploded for 27 points – including three first-half dunks, while leading the short-handed Cougars (7-2) past the Warriors (5-4). North played without scoring leader Nick Klaiber, who suffered a hamstring injury during North’s loss to Monroe Central on Dec. 23.

“When Nick has played 32 minutes a game for four years, then not have him, I was proud of them,” North coach Jason Speer said. “We moved the ball well, got it where it needed to go, and we were tough for 32 minutes. J.Q. is a super-nice player when he gets the ball going at the rim.”

Austin Willoughby had 11 points and Max Sullivan added 10 for Whiteland.

North already owns a 66-47 win over BNL in the season opener at North on Nov. 23. The Stars played that night without Leach, with Staggs scoring 21 points. Klaiber had 18 points for the Cougars, but he was absent for the morning semifinal.

“It’s totally different,” Speer said. “It will be a good matchup. We have to take care of the ball, play defense in space and have some poise to go vertical.”


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

1 Cayden Pauquette, f 3-6 7-14 3-4 11 0 20

12 Nathan Goss, f 0-0 0-1 0-0 3 0 0

3 Carlos Trevino, g 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

5 Eli Wood, g 0-0 5-11 3-3 1 2 13

11 Jack Hamilton, g 1-6 1-6 0-0 3 2 3

50 Riley Brock 0-0 2-2 0-2 3 0 4

24 Caden Gonser 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

30 Dylan Herbert 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

23 Drew Kristoff 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

4 Kolton Jackson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

23 Rhet Heckman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

22 Cason Robertson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 4-13 15-34 6-9 22 7 40


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

4 Kaedyn Bennett, f 0-5 3-9 0-0 4 0 6

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

22 Colton Staggs, g 1-2 7-14 2-3 6 2 17

1 Trace Rynders, g 2-5 3-6 0-0 1 0 8

2 Colten Leach, g 0-0 9-15 2-2 5 3 20

14 Kole Bailey 1-1 1-3 0-0 4 1 3

10 Dylan Nikirk 0-0 2-3 2-2 1 2 6

20 Dylan Endris 0-0 1-1 0-0 0 0 2

31 Logan Miracle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

12 Maddox Ray 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

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

Totals 4-14 26-52 6-7 24 10 62

Owen Valley 7 12 10 11 – 40

Bedford NL 11 16 17 18 – 62

Turnovers – Owen Valley 15, BNL 3

Field goal percentage – Owen Valley 15-34 (.441); BNL 26-52 (.500)

Free throw percentage – Owen Valley 6-9 (.667); BNL 6-7 (.857)

BNL’s Dylan Nikirk dribbles down the baseline. Nikirk had 6 points.


North (7-2) – Marco Fitch 10, Nate Hoffman 13, Gavin Reed 7, J.Q. Roberts 27, Bril Kante 3.

Whiteland (5-4) – Max Sullivan 10, Drew Higdon 5, Dylan Gross 2, Kyson Jones 7, Wiatt McLaughlin 7, Jazz Banwait 3, Austin Willoughby 11.