No.2 Stars set to tangle with No.6 Zionsville in Sneakers for Santa showcase

BNL senior guard Karsyn Norman and the No.2 Stars will battle No.6 Zionsville in the Sneakers for Santa showcase event on Saturday at Brownsburg.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The last two seasons, Bedford North Lawrence has reached this point with an unblemished record, journeyed to Brownsburg, and suffered that first loss, both times by one point. Will history repeat? BNL coach Jeff Allen, keenly aware of the trend, intends to break that cycle of frustration.

The Stars, 6-0 and ranked No.2 in the Class 4A poll, will face their toughest challenge yet when they tangle with No.6 Zionsville in the final game of Saturday’s power-packed Sneakers for Santa showcase at Brownsburg. The six-game event features some of the top teams and individual talent in the state, capped by the nightcap clash between BNL and the high-flying Eagles (7-0).

Coaches tend to remember losses more vividly than victories. Allen hasn’t forgotten the 2020 road loss to Brownsburg (43-42 on a last-second 3-pointer) or the 41-40 setback to Illinois power Fremd in the Sneakers event last season. That gymnasium holds bitter memories.

“The last two years have not been kind,” Allen said. “Don’t think we’re not thinking about that. The girls know that.”

For the third time to be the charm, the Stars will have to conquer a formidable foe with a Miss Basketball candidate as its main weapon. Senior sensation Laila Hull, a 6-1 forward and North Carolina recruit, is averaging 23.0 points and 9.6 rebounds. Hull was a member of the Indiana Junior All-Stars in June. Zionsville has other scoring options with junior guards Emma Haan (14.0 points) and Allie Caldwell (9.7), but Hull will demand the most attention.

Zionsville senior Laila Hull, a North Carolina recruit, is a contender for the Miss Basketball award.

“She reminds me of Dominique (McBryde, BNL’s former All-Star),” Allen said, handing out high praise. “She’s that type of player, very versatile, long and athletic. She’s very skilled, a really nice player. I don’t think you stop a player like that, you make it difficult for them. We’ll try to do that.”

Hull’s size, plus the presence of 6-0 senior Mallory Heerdt, will put pressure on BNL’s undersized roster to rebound and defend the interior. But what else is new?

“We’re always outmatched in that category,” Allen said. “We’ll have to outwork them. The girls know that. We’ll have to rebound as a unit, we’ll have to battle.”

The Stars will present their own problems for Zionsville to solve. BNL features its Miss Basketball contender in senior guard Karsyn Norman (18.7 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 steals), plus future Indiana All-Star candidate Chloe Spreen (21.8 points, 6.5 boards). Senior forward Mallory Pride is totaling 9.5 points and 5.0 boards.

BNL’s strength has been its defense. The Stars are allowing only 30.2 points, they’ve been winning by a whopping average of 37.8 while triggering the running clock in four games, including the impressive blowout of Jeffersonville (65-21) in their last outing.

BNL junior Chloe Spreen leads the Stars in scoring and rebounding.

“They were in scramble mode trying to press us, but we have five guards that can move the basketball,” said Allen, whose club didn’t surrender a first-half field goal to Jeffersonville until the final 90 seconds. “We ended up with numbers on a break a lot of times, and that put them in a bad position. And we did a great job defensively.

“My guards are all skilled and have a lot of confidence. We’re a veteran bunch. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

BNL has won three straight in the brief series, the last win an easy 62-19 triumph during the 2019-20 campaign. Hull has just a freshman that night (scoring 8 points). She has grown, multiple ways, since then.

“We’ll try to use our speed to our advantage,” Allen said. “We’ll have to give a lot of people help. When we can get stops, we can get out in transition. We have to compete, play hard and execute. If we do that, we think we’ll be in a good position.”

The rest of the games on the Sneakers agenda include North Central (1-5) vs. Crispus Attacks (5-3) at 11:30 a.m., Brownsburg (2-5) vs. Crown Point (4-3) at 1:15 p.m., Fremd (4-0) vs. Jennings County (5-0) at 3, Bolinbrook (3-0 in Illinois) vs. Columbus East (4-3) at 4:45, and 4A No.1 South Bend Washington (6-0) vs. No.3 Noblesville (6-0) at 6:30.

BNL senior Mallory Pride is averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.


When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. at Brownsburg

Records: BNL 6-0, ranked No.2 in Class 4A; Zionsville 7-0, ranked No.6 in Class 4A

Sagarin ratings: BNL 105.55; Zionsville 102.90

Last meeting: During the 2019-20 season, the Stars stormed to a 62-19 victory at BNL Fieldhouse. Irye Gomez and Chloe McKnight scored 18 points each for BNL. Laila Hull had 8 points for Zionsville, which had 29 turnovers.

Previous game story: Defensive Stars demolish Zionsville

Game notes: BNL has won three of the four meetings in the recent series. Zionsville coach Andy Maguire recently won his 300th career game. The Stars are third in the state in scoring at 68 points per game.

BNL statistics

Zionsville statistics

Starting lineups

Bedford NL Stars

F – Chloe Spreen 5-9 Jr.

F – Mallory Pride 5-8 Sr.

G – Madisyn Bailey 5-8 Jr.

G – Karsyn Norman 5-6 Sr.

G – Emma Brown 5-5 Sr.

Zionsville Eagles

F – Laila Hull 6-1 Sr.

C – Mallory Heerdt 6-0 Sr.

G – Emma Haan 5-7 Jr.

G – Allie Caldwell 5-10 Jr.

G – Faith Leedy 5-4 Jr.