No.1 BNL set for high-impact HHC collision with No.14 Columbus East

BNL’s Karsyn Norman and the No.1 Stars will battle No.14 Columbus East for the HHC lead on Tuesday night.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Competing for a conference crown is a great motivational factor. So is revenge. Both those intangible points fall in Bedford North Lawrence’s favor as the top-ranked Stars prepare for a high-impact collision with the defending Hoosier Hills Conference champion.

BNL, which views the league title as a perennial possession after winning 21 trophies in program history, will seek to reclaim what it lost – and avenge a stunning gut-punch loss from last season – when the Stars clash with No.14 Columbus East in a titanic matchup at BNL Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

The Stars (16-1 overall) are 4-0 in the HHC and could clinch at least a share of the title with a victory over East (3-0 in the league). But in case anyone forgot, and the Stars certainly have not, the Olympians ripped the conference crown away from BNL in 2021 with a thrilling 67-66 victory that featured more twists and turns than the U.S. 50 stretch of highway between Bedford and Shoals. East (13-3 overall) definitely has the superior size and offensive firepower to cause another BNL wreck.

Last year’s battle, upon further review, was both haunting and impressive. East exploded to a 24-3 lead as BNL fell flat on its face like a skateboarder on cement. The Stars hit only 1 of their first 15 shots and had 8 turnovers during that nightmare start. How can any team recover from that? Well, the Stars did, charging back and taking the lead late in the fourth quarter. But a critical turnover, and some clutch East free throws, sealed BNL’s final doom.

BNL coach Jeff Allen also recalls East’s last visit to BNL Fieldhouse, when the Olympians erupted to a quick 11-2 lead. The Stars roared back to win that one by 20. But Allen wants to end the slow-start trend right now.

“That,” Allen said with ominous overtone, “will be the No.1 priority for us. Let’s not let them have that type of advantage on us this year, where we’re playing from behind. Against a really good team, don’t put yourselves in a bad position to fight the whole game. So we need to play well in the first quarter, and I think we will. The kids are ready.”

Chloe Spreen leads the Stars in scoring and rebounding as they prepare for face East, the defending HHC champion.

East was certainly ready last season, with the shock-and-awe opening sending BNL into brief panic mode. The Stars snapped out of that, starting making shots, then wasted the lead-and-possession edge in the final 90 seconds and turned it over on a final chance to steal back victory.

“You have to give them credit,” Allen said. “They came out and played really well. I was proud of my kids for battling back and having a chance to win, but they played well.”

That’s enough of a recent history lesson. The battle lines for the rematch are clear and much more pertinent. East features a giant frontline and an All-Star candidate at guard, while BNL will counter with its speed and double-edged star-power sword of sophomore Chloe Spreen and junior Karsyn Norman.

For the Olympians, the scouting report starts with senior guard Koryn Greiwe, who just broke the school’s career scoring record (previously held by 1980 Miss Basketball Maria Stack). Greiwe, now with 1,535 points in four seasons, is averaging 16.6 points, and she’s been a problem for the Stars to contain. She totaled 22 points during last year’s clash.

Then shift the focus to 6-1 junior forward Saige Stahl (16.9 points, 8.9 rebounds), 6-0 junior Leah Bachmann (9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds) and 6-3 senior center Harley Gant (5.6 boards). Stand up the Stars back-to-back against their taller opponents, and the size advantage is obvious.

“Koryn has always played really well against us,” Allen said. “She’s really crafty, very skilled. She has some strength, so she’s a problem. And they’re really big. It will be a contrast of two different types of players. We’re athletic and fast, and they’re big. So it will be the team that can enforce their style that will have the advantage. We will have to rebound. That’s always an issue for us, we know that. But in this game, we really have to do a good job on the defensive boards.”

BNL’s Mallory Pride has been a key contributor as the Stars have climbed to the top of the Class 4A poll.

BNL’s edge? Spreen is the scoring (16.4) and rebounding (6.0) leader, while Norman (14.3) has been the backcourt spark. What the Stars have proven lately is their versatility. When Spreen has been slowed, Norman has been terrific (a career-high 30 points against Warren Central). When Norman has struggled, the so-called role players have stepped forward. Carlee Kern, Mallory Pride and Madisyn Bailey have taken turns with crucial contributions, proving that emphatically during the 47-43 win at Castle on Saturday.

East coach Danny Brown offered a one-sentence assessment: “We have to be at our best on Tuesday.”

“Carlee, Mal and Madisyn have all taken it upon themselves, when they have to score, they can do that,” Allen said. “That helps eliminate that problem. We have other weapons that can contribute.”

BNL’s challenge will be solving East’s zone, which can be extended into trapping mode with all the rim-protecting length on the back line. The Stars will also count on their defense (which allowing only 36.8 points per game) to slow down East (sixth in the state at 64.9 per game).

“It will be ball movement, understanding where the open areas are, and making shots,” Allen said. “We cause them some problems if we get out in transition. It will be a battle of wills. It will be how we begin the game. If we play well, I like our chances. The conference title is something we always make a priority. We have a chance to take a great step toward securing that.”

BNL’s last HHC title came in 2020, which it shared with Jeffersonville. In fact, BNL’s last outright championship came in 2015.

“Obviously we want to win the HHC because it’s a big deal,” Norman said. “But I hate to lose. We all do. So I want revenge from last year.”


Columbus East’s Koryn Greiwe
Courtesy photo

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Columbus East 13-3 (3-0 in HHC), ranked No.14 in Class 4A; BNL 16-1 (4-0 in HHC), ranked No.1 in Class 4A

Sagarin ratings: Columbus East 91.29; BNL 99.93

Last meeting: Last year at East, the Olympians got off to a 24-3 start and edged the Stars 67-66 en route to the HHC title. Koryn Greiwe had 22 points for East. Irye Gomez scored 20 points for BNL.

Previous game story: East strikes early to hold off Stars

Columbus East statistics

BNL statistics

Game notes: East ranks sixth in the state in scoring at 64.9 points per game. BNL has won 21 HHC titles in program history. East has won 9 league titles. East coach Danny Brown is 17th on the active coach list with 345 career wins.

Starting lineups

Bedford NL Stars

F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 So.

F – Carlee Kern 5-8 Sr.

F – Mallory Pride 5-8 So.

G – Madisyn Bailey 5-8 So.

G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 Jr.

Columbus East Olympians

F – Saige Stahl 6-1 Jr.

F – Leah Bachmann 6-0 Jr.

C – Harley Gant 6-3 Sr.

G – Koryn Greiwe 5-7 Sr.

G – Albany Speer 5-5 Sr.