By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Part of the charm of former Bedford North Lawrence coach Mark Mathews, aside from his affinity for trivia, was his constant insistence that the next opponent was – regardless of their win-loss status – the best team around with that particular record.
For example, if the next foe owned a 4-5 record, they were “the best 4-5 team in the state.” As if a poll existed based on such records. His point was, despite any team’s lack of overall success, every opponent presented a danger and deserved respect.
Fast forward to present day, current BNL coach Jeff Hein is channeling his inner Mathews. The Stars are about to go on the road, opening Hoosier Hills Conference action at Columbus East on Friday night, and Hein is concerned about the Olympians. Their record? Unremarkable at 1-4, doubtful to cause a second look. Although, with the Stars at 0-2, everybody should get a hard glare rather than a soft glance.
“They’re a scary 1-4 team,” Hein said. “Here’s why – they have a lot of kids back from last year, they went on a run at the end of the year. They have experience, they’re playing at home.”
East went 7-15 last year, but the bulk of those victories came during a 5-game win streak in February. The Olympians pushed Bloomington North (destined for a regional title) quite hard in the sectional opener. There was a springboard into this season.
So far, East has yet to take off, falling to Silver Creek (65-57), Noblesville (72-43) and Whiteland (69-50) before conquering Trinity Lutheran (66-36). East is coming off a 79-63 setback to undefeated Southwestern. The showpiece weapon is senior guard Ben Sylva (averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists).
“He’s their do-it-all guy,” Hein said. “They have some nice players (including 6-3 senior Julius Dailey inside), they’re capable of scoring a lot of points, and they like to play fast.”
BNL has yet to taste triumph. The Stars faltered in the final minute and got stung by a (late) last-second shot against Bloomington North, they got shot down (again) by Bloomington South. There have been signs of improvement, most notably a more productive and balanced offense with Colten Leach (15.0), Colton Staggs (15.0) and Trace Rynders (12.5) hitting double figures. Now they need one more consistent threat to emerge.
“I think Kaedyn (Bennett) will get going soon,” Hein said. “Once he gets going, it will help. He’s one of our more solid players in all facets of the game. Then it’s a matter of where the fifth guy will come from.
“I like that we’re scoring points, but I don’t like we giving up (62.5) as much as we’re giving up. A lot of it is our defensive transition. We turn the ball over at inopportune times, and it leads to two points on the other end. Too many layups and easy baskets. Our offense has been better, but our defense has to do a better job of protecting the basket. We have to do a better job of getting back on defense.
“Bad shots are the same as a turnover, and we had several against South. I think South had us sped up. We have to do a better job of playing at our own speed.”
BNL dictated everything during last year’s 50-34 win over East. Staggs had 12 points, Bennett added 11, and Leach made his belated season debut with 7 points. Sylva paced East, which erased BNL’s early double-digit lead before the Stars took control in the third quarter, with 13 points.
BNL at COLUMBUS EAST
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 0-2 (0-0 in HHC); Columbus East 1-4 (0-0 in HHC)
Last meeting: Last year at BNL, the Stars rolled to a 50-34 triumph. Colton Staggs had 12 points and Kaedyn Bennett added 11 for BNL. Ben Sylva totaled 13 points for the Olympians.
Previous game story: Stars exhale
Game notes: BNL has won three straight in the series. East hasn’t posted a winning record since 2018-19.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Kaedyn Bennett 6-2 Sr.
F – Jett Jones 6-1 Sr.
G – Colten Leach 6-2 Sr.
G – Colton Staggs 6-0 Sr.
G – Trace Rynders 5-9 Jr.
Columbus East Olympians
F – Julius Dailey 6-3 Sr.
F – Jake Gilbert 6-0 Jr.
G – Zane Moravec 5-7 Sr.
G – Ben Sylva 6-2 Sr.
G – Keaton Lawson 6-2 Fr.