Expectations rocketing into orbit as BNL begins practice sessions for 2022-23

BNL coach Jeff Allen is starting his ninth season in charge of the program.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – According to brilliant inventor Charles Kettering, who held 186 patents, “high achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” That statement should be Bedford North Lawrence’s team motto for the 2022-23 season. Print that on a shirt.

Expectations are always stratospheric for the Stars. Comes with the uniform, hangs from the rafters in the northeast corner of BNL Fieldhouse. Those banners don’t make noise, drooping so gracefully overhead, yet they scream. They demand more members for that sorority of success. And that’s the goal now. All the way to orbit in outer space.

Coming off a sensational 24-3 campaign, with four returning starters, with two of the best players in the state on the roster, BNL is shooting for the stars. And it should. Rest assured, everyone will be shooting for the Stars. The last time BNL carried this heavy a load into a season, it was coming off back-to-back state titles. By the way, those were the last team banners added to the rafter collection.

That’s the backdrop as BNL started official practice sessions on Monday afternoon. Banner or bust? That’s a lot of pressure, with many obstacles. The Stars believe they are ready, and equipped, for the challenge.

“It’s our last chance,” senior guard Karsyn Norman said. “We’ve been pretty successful, but this is our year to go all the way. We have to play together, execute, and it comes down to heart. Who wants it? We all do this year. I think we’re the best we’ve been in a while. I think we can get the job done this year.“

Norman, a Butler recruit and Indiana Junior All-Star who’s now in the Miss Basketball conversation, is one of the reasons for the projections of greatness. So is junior sensation Chloe Spreen, the coveted recruit of multiple Div. I programs and a possible frontrunner for Miss Basketball in 2024. Wow, that’s enough talent for one team.

BNL senior Karsyn Norman will be in the Miss Basketball conversation during the upcoming season.

But there’s more. The Stars also return senior forward Mallory Pride and junior guard Madisyn Bailey, plus they’ve added senior guard Emma Brown after her recovery from knee surgery. And there’s also depth in the backcourt and some size up front with promising freshman Ellie Tillett.

Norman (15.0 points a year ago) and Spreen (team highs of 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds) will demand the most attention. Bailey (7.0 points., 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists) and Pride (6.1 points, 5.3 boards) are outstanding role players who are capable of explosions.

“We have great pieces,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I think Madisyn Bailey is as good as any guard you’ll see in high school. We have Mallory and Emma, we have some young kids to fill in some roles. So it will make it difficult for teams to focus on Karsyn and Chloe.

“They’ve been through a lot, they know what’s expected, they know what to expect. It comes down to those kids making plays. We’ve had great leadership, so that experience will definitely help us.”

Allen is starting his ninth season (a remarkable 179-37 record during the previous eight) and understands exactly what he has. He took over in 2014 and went 26-0 before the Stars fell to Columbus North in the regional final. That team had three All-Stars and was chasing a third straight title. These expectations are the highest since that team.

“With this bunch, we’ve had two great years,” Allen said. “We just haven’t been able to get over the hump in the regional. So the expectations are pretty high. We feel like we have the kids, so we’ll go after people more from a pressure standpoint. Hopefully we have the depth I think we will have.”

BNL junior Madisyn Bailey is one of four returning starters.

BNL opened practice with 17 players in uniform. Some roles are already defined after a summer of scrimmages and workouts. The leadership will come from the senior class, whether by voice or example. “Just being nice,” Pride said with a smile. “I’m trying not to be the mean senior everyone is scared of.”

“I’m a little nervous, but very excited,” Brown said. “There are so many of us that can lead. I’ve never been so excited. And I will never take playing for granted again.”

BNL’s first two weeks will be the basic routine. Practice sessions, the annual intrasquad scrimmage, the sanctioned scrimmage (at Scottsburg on Oct. 28), the season opener (with Mooresville, currently set for Nov. 4, depending on Mooresville’s football fortunes). There’s not a lot to get excited about yet, although that shouldn’t diminish the importance.

“It will set the foundation for our team,” senior Katie Baumgart said. “We’ll see how we’ll do during the season. I just want to cheer them on, be a good person in practice, try to keep the enthusiasm going. That’s really fun, all the energy.“

BNL will have plenty of reasons for excitement with a brutal regular-season schedule that includes tests with North Central, Zionsville, Brownsburg, defending state champion Noblesville, the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle, league foe Jennings County, and powerful East Central. There won’t be many lulls in competition.

“We like playing a tough schedule,” Allen said. “I’ve never shied away from playing somebody and worry about losing a game. That doesn’t matter. What worries me is how we progress, how good we are at the end of January.”

BNL will stage its intrasquad scrimmage on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.