Clinched Stars loosen the tight shackles to shoot past Edgewood

BNL’s Colton Staggs sets up a driving chance during Saturday night’s clash with Edgewood. Staggs scored 21 points as the Stars stopped the Mustangs 56-45.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Give an assist to Mrs. Coach.

Most coach wives, experts in morale support, maintaining sanity and soothing the savage beast after a loss, are not strategy specialists. But Amber Hein, a former Bedford North Lawrence standout with a state championship ring, is an exception. So when she discussed BNL’s labor pains on offense with her perplexed husband, Jeff Hein listened.

Her diagnosis was pinpoint accurate: “They look tight.” So how do you unwind the rigid, ease the cliched? And old-fashioned pep talk, a let-it-fly, accept-the-consequences attitude, and lineup shuffle. The results were obvious. BNL shed the shackles and shot down Edgewood on Saturday night.

The night following one of the more frustrating performances in memory, the Stars were back in sync. While the 56-45 victory didn’t set records for offensive output, it was definitely an exponential improvement for a team that was stuck in its own way, averaging only 45 points per game. Colton Staggs scored 21 points, Colten Leach totaled 14 and Kaedyn Bennett added 10 as BNL (6-6) ended a two-game skid.

After standing stagnant during the 26-point, what-was-that effort against Seymour, BNL was back in rhythm, sharp with ball movement, quick to pull the trigger and attack rather than dribble the logo off the ball without going anywhere. They popped six treys, found the open man while penetrating, discovered the joy of splashing shots rather than clanking and shriveling.

“It was just a shot of confidence,” Hein said after crediting his wife for the psychology analysis. “That’s the way we have to play. When we don’t, the ball won’t go in. We have to catch it ready and fire it up there. We looked a lot more comfortable shooting the ball.”

BNL came out of its shell during a second-quarter surge. Dylan Nikirk started it with a 3-pointer from the key (his first of the season), Staggs followed with a 3-point play and a baseline 15-footer, and Bennett bombed one from the wing. The Stars closed the half with a Jett Jones bucket from the lane (off a Staggs drive and pass) for a 27-18 lead.

“We played really well that quarter,” Hein said. “That enabled us to get that lead. Then we had to pretend it was 0-0 . We stayed aggressive, didn’t get too timid and try to protect the lead. We did a good job of keeping the scoreboard clicking. Keep the rhythm going and the offense going.”

BNL’s Colten Leach hits the hardwood to save a possession. Leach had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals.

The Mustangs (7-9) responded with their best moments, hitting their first four shots of the second half (including two treys by Zach Sims) to slash the margin to 32-29. But the Stars reclaimed control with Leach’s offensive rebound, Staggs’ corner bomb off an inbound set, and a deep Trace Rynders jumper to a 40-31 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, BNL went a little old school. When struggling, get to the foul line. When closing out a win, get to the foul line. The Stars were 10 of 12 from the stripe in the final frame, with Staggs hitting six straight. The relief meter spiked.

“It’s a good win. It’s a good confidence boost,” Staggs said. “Coach Hein has been hitting confidence all week. After last night, he gave us a big pep talk, and I think that helped. There was more movement off the ball, and the ball was moving more. We played as a team. We played pretty well, finally got a W.”

Leach, one of those shifted from the starting lineup (even if it was only for 45 seconds), was back to his expected level. In addition to the points, he had 8 rebounds, 5 steals and did most of the defensive work on Edgewood ace Caden Huttenlocker, who had to sweat a lot to get his 15 points.

“He needed a wake-up call,” Hein said. “I thought he responded really well.”

Sims paced Edgewood with 16 points. The Mustangs, who had 8 turnovers in the fourth quarter to squelch their comeback bid, would have preferred a gallop pace rather than a trot. And they would have preferred to keep the Stars in slump mode.

“We knew they had the potential,” Edgewood coach Matt Wadsworth said. “When a team is in a slump, they’re going to come out with everything they’ve got. One of our downfalls was the offensive rebounds we gave up. You can’t give up those type of shots.”

BNL will return to action on Friday at Jeffersonville.

BNL’s Kaedyn Bennett finds an open teammate with a pass. Bennett had 10 points as the Stars finished with three in double figures.


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

23 Zach Sims, f 2-5 7-13 0-0 5 4 16

34 Nick McCullough, f 0-0 0-0 0-0 3 3 0

10 Caden Huttenlocker, g 3-6 6-13 0-0 3 2 15

2 Xzander Hammonds, g 0-1 1-2 3-3 1 2 5

14 Brayden Robinson, g 1-3 3-6 0-0 3 1 7

12 Grant Coffey 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

40 Jalin White 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 0

11 Jacob Boggs 0-0 0-0 2-2 2 1 2

24 Carl Norris 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 6-16 17-35 5-5 21 14 45


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

4 Kaedyn Bennett, f 2-7 3-9 2-2 3 2 10

34 Jett Jones, f 0-0 2-3 0-0 1 2 4

22 Colton Staggs, g 2-5 6-12 7-9 4 2 21

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

14 Kole Bailey, g 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 3 0

2 Colten Leach 0-0 6-10 2-2 8 1 14

10 Dylan Nikirk 1-1 1-2 1-2 1 0 4

Totals 6-19 19-43 12-15 22 10 56

Edgewood 10 8 16 11 – 45

Bedford NL 9 18 15 14 – 56

Turnovers – Edgewood 15, BNL 8

Field goal percentage – Edgewood 17-35 (.485); BNL 19-43 (.442)

Free throw percentage – Edgewood 5-5 (1.000); BNL 12-15 (.800)

BNL’s Dylan Nikirk waits for an open driving lane. Nikirk hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to spark the Stars.