Heaven is Eleven: No.4 Stars to start celestial chase for another sectional crown

Karsyn Norman, one of the heroes of BNL’s sectional championship last season, and the No.4 Stars will start their title defense against Jeffersonville on Tuesday night.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – Of all the program highlights, including four state championship banners and two Miss Basketball winners, ‘The Streak’ ranks among the great achievements in Bedford North Lawrence history. Winning a sectional title is difficult, cutting down the nets 10 consecutive seasons defies odds and description.

There have been extreme scares during those 30 straight wins. A one-point escape against Jennings County in 2016, the epic double-overtime battle with Jeffersonville in 2018 that is arguably the best ever, last year’s title clash with Jennings County when BNL had to rally from a 12-point deficit.

Keys to ‘The Streak’? Luck? Perhaps. Talent? Definitely. But that only explains part of it. There’s a heartbeat, a pride, an expectation of excellence that has given the Stars an aura of invincibility. They will start the celestial chase for another one – call it Heaven is Eleven – on Tuesday night.

No.4 BNL (20-2) will be the obvious and overwhelming favorite when it faces Jeffersonville (10-7) in the second game of the opening round at Jeffersonville. Seymour (10-10) will meet New Albany (5-18) in a quick-turnaround rematch in the opening game.

BNL sophomore Chloe Spreen had 19 points in the first meeting with the Red Devils.

Floyd Central (9-13) will await the BNL-Jeffersonville winner in the second semifinal on Friday, while Jennings County (16-6) drew a bye to face the Seymour-New Albany survivor in the first semifinal. The championship is set for Saturday.

BNL’s streak is historic. It’s the longest current title run in the state, it’s the longest ever in Class 4A since the inception of class basketball in 1998. Only three teams (Fort Wayne Canterbury with 12 in Class A from 2004-15, Northeast Dubois with 11 in Class A from 2003-13, and Lafayette Central Catholic with 11 in Class A from 2006-16) have longer streaks. Rushville holds the overall state record with 18 straight (from 1980-97).

“I don’t know anything is tougher than winning a sectional, not only back-to-back but 10 times in a row,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “It’s a testament to how we do things here, what we’ve done as far as instilling in our players the desire and understanding to win.

“We’ve had several close games, thinking back to the Jeffersonville game where I thought we were beat about three different times. Every coach will tell you there’s a little luck involved. Preparation is big, not just the week of but the whole year, talking about situations and getting your kids ready for a tournament setting and being prepared for whatever someone throws at you. When you have success, kids expect to win. In close games, it’s not so much coaching as it is a kid’s desire to win and make a play, having the confidence to win.”

BNL’s Madisyn Bailey and the Stars have been tough on defense, allowing only 36.8 points per game.

The Stars should certainly be confident. They already own a regular-season win over the Red Devils, posting a 53-31 home victory on Nov. 20. BNL wasn’t crisp that night, shooting only 38 percent and giving up 18 turnovers. Chloe Spreen had 19 points, Mallory Pride added 14, and BNL forced 26 Jeff turnovers to compensate for its offensive malaise.

“We turned the ball over a lot,” Allen said. “Maybe you can credit the hangover from North Central (a key 54-51 road victory that many point to as the springboard for this season) the night before, some of it is credit to Jeffersonville’s athletes. And some of it was making bad decisions. So we need to take care of the basketball, value possessions.”

The Red Devils have played only four games since Dec. 14, thanks to virus postponements. They’ve won three straight for momentum, capped by a 54-46 win over Scottsburg. Nevaeh Bates had 11 points and Brooklyn Carter came off the bench for 10 to spark that triumph. La’Kyra Johnson had 10 points and Sophia Reese totaled 8 in the first clash with BNL.

The Stars will feature Spreen, the scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.1) team leader, while junior point guard Karsyn Norman (14.6 points, team highs of 3.1 assists and 3.3 steals) has been the team barometer. They’ve gotten plenty of support from Madison Bailey (7.4 points), Pride (6.3) and Carlee Kern (6.0).

BNL concluded the regular season with a four-game winning streak. The postseason one matters much more, especially when the target is part of the jersey.

BNL’s Mallory Pride had 14 points during the win over the Red Devils in November at BNL.

“We’re always get everyone’s best game,” Spreen said. “Everyone is out to get us. We have our winning streak and everything. So it’s a big deal for us. We’ve worked so hard for this. And it’s here already. Every team we play, we’ll get the best. We have to play our game, play hard, make shots, make good decisions, value possessions.”

“Everyone’s head has to be in it,” Norman said.

BNL, which owns an eight-game postseason winning streak against Jeffersonville, will rely on its defense first (allowing only 36.8 points), and look to set the tone with a fast start. That’s been a recent point of emphasis.

“Just a good start, where we play with intensity, where we fell good about ourselves offensively,” Allen said. “I really like playing on Tuesday. Sitting around and practicing all week is stressful. The kids sit around and get nervous. I’m not thrilled about playing Jeffersonville in the opening game on their home floor, but we’ll be prepared for anything.”

New Albany vs. Seymour – In the opener, the Owls will be looking for a second straight win over the Bulldogs. Seymour just clipped New Albany 48-46 on Jan. 27 to cap the regular season. Journee Brown hit the game winner at the buzzer, Grace Schrader paced the Owls in scoring with 15 points while Kaylee Waskom scored 11.

Jeffersonville coach Missy Voyles has guided the Red Devils to three straight wins to close the season.

BNL statistics


First round at Jeffersonville


When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: BNL 20-2, ranked No.4; Jeffersonville 10-7

Sagarin ratings: BNL 98.06; Jeffersonville 76.63

Last meeting: On Nov. 20 at BNL, the Stars cruised to a 53-31 victory. Chloe Spreen had 19 points and Mallory Pride added 14 for BNL. La’Kyra Johnson had 10 points for the Devils.

Previous game story: W is pretty during ugly win

Game notes: BNL has won 30 consecutive sectional games, and its current run of 10 straight sectional titles is the longest active streak in the state. BNL’s 30 total sectional titles is second in state history.

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.

Jeffersonville Red Devils

F – Cadence Singleton 6-0 Jr.

F – Nevaeh Bates 5-8 Sr.

G – Sophia Reese 5-6 Jr.

G – Elle Marble 5-9 So.

G – La’Kyra Johnson 5-7 So.

New Albany’s Journey Howard and the Bulldogs will seek to avenge a regular-season loss to Seymour in the opening game.


When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Records: Seymour 10-10; New Albany 5-18

Sagarin ratings: Seymour 70.03; New Albany 60.05

Last meeting: On Jan. 27 At New Albany, Seymour prevailed 48-46 on a last-second shot by Journee Brown. Grace Schrader paced the Owls in scoring with 15 points while Kaylee Waskom scored 11.

Game notes: New Albany has not won a sectional title since 2002. Seymour’s last championship came in 2008. The Owls haven’t won a sectional game since 2012.

Starting lineups

Seymour Owls

F – Grace Schrader 6-0 Sr.

F – Journee Brown 5-11 So.

G – Brooke Trinkle 5-5 Jr.

G – Kendall Sterling 5-10 So.

G – Greer Henry 5-7 Fr.

New Albany Bulldogs

F – Alaina Walker 5-7 Jr.

F – Journey Howard 5-9 Jr.

F – Anasha Crowdus 5-7 Sr.

G – Taylor Treat 5-6 Sr.

G – Maleea Roland 5-7 Sr.