By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Two gunslingers, squaring off in the climactic scene from an old Western movie, standing face to face in the street while everyone dives for cover. Fastest on the draw, and the most accurate, survives the showdown.
The basketball version of the shootout is set for Saturday night in the Class 4A regional final at Bedford North Lawrence. No.7 Franklin, the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the state, will challenge No.3 BNL in a duel for a championship.
The Stars (22-2) have geared their attack to an aggressive style, shoot first and ask questions later. Most opponents fear that and look to slow down BNL’s ultra-combative pace. The Grizzly Cubs, young and fearless, will not.
Franklin’s success has been based on the bomb. With three freshmen in the starting lineup, with dangerous gunners at almost every position, the Cubs have shattered state records and shot down some dreams. They made 20 treys against Southport on Nov. 10, then topped that new state record with 21 against Batesville on Dec. 30.
Over 60 percent of Franklin’s shots have come from long range. The Cubs have been limited to single digits in made 3-pointers only six times all season – the latest by Castle in the second regional semifinal. Of course, Franklin made nine against the Knights and rallied from a halftime deficit with a flurry of treys in the third quarter for a 51-44 triumph that set up the clash with the Stars.
The Cubs, ranked sixth in the state in scoring at 66.7 points per game prior to the regional win, have BNL’s attention.
“They have a lot weapons,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “They shoot the ball well from the perimeter. They spread you out.
“It will be a tough matchup for us. We have to make sure we’re doing well on the perimeter, not getting lost and leaving shooters. That’s a big concern. Hopefully we can cover them and make it difficult. It’s locking them down in the halfcourt. They rebounded well for a bunch of guards, so we have to contest threes and not give them two or three chances.”
Franklin features junior Kuryn Brunson (16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds), 5-10 freshman Scarlett Kimbrell (11.6 with 77 treys) and quicksilver freshman point guard Lauren Klem (11.6 with 85 from deep).
Few have been able to keep the Cubs checked. Zionsville posted a 51-36 win, while Center Grove held them to 30 and 45 points in two meetings – and lost both. Franklin’s other setback was a 74-71 thriller with Martinsville in the final game of the regular season.
“We have to play our game,” Franklin coach Josh Sabol said. “We’re going to shoot it, we want to take care of it, and we want to slow them down in transition because they’re so dynamic. It should be a pretty exciting game, kind of similar styles, a lot of shooting and playing at pace with good players.”
BNL, of course, doesn’t lack for firepower or talented underclass stars. Freshman forward Chloe Spreen, who scored 20 in the regional semifinal win over East Central, leads the Stars in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (5.6). Chloe McKnight, not bad from the 3-point line herself with 75 baskets from that distance, averages 14.0, Irye Gomez contributes 12.2, and sophomore guard Karsyn Norman has scored in double figures in five consecutive games.
“It’s the balance,” Sabol said. “They have so many girls who can score. You can’t key on any one player. There are so many skilled players on the floor. You’ll have to be able to guard the girl in front of you.”
BNL takes great pride in that. The Stars allow only 41.1 points per game.
“The good thing is they haven’t seen us either,” Allen said as the Stars prepare to face a new foe. “They won‘t be used to how we play or what we do. They have to guard us, too. Hopefully we can put them in some tough spots.”
The regional champion will advance to the one-game semistate at either Jasper or Jeffersonville on Feb. 20.
Class 4A at BNL
FRANKLIN at BNL
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Records: Franklin 21-2, ranked No.7; BNL 22-2, ranked No.3
Sagarin ratings: Franklin 94.48; BNL 99.53
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the programs.
Game notes: Franklin has won four regionals, the last in 1999 in Class 3A. BNL has won 13 regionals and is the defending champion.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Irye Gomez 5-9 Sr.
F – Chloe McKnight 5-9 Sr.
F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 Fr.
G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 So.
G – Jenna Louden 5-6 Sr.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
F – Kuryn Brunson 5-10 Jr.
G – Scarlett Kimbrell 5-10 Fr.
G – Lauren Klem 5-2 Fr.
G – Kyra Baker 5-6 Sr.
G – Erica Buening 5-6 Fr.