By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – For the fourth time in the last three years, Bedford North Lawrence will visit what has become a house of horrors. The last three times the Stars have made the journey to Brownsburg, they were undefeated when they arrived. Not when they left.
This time is different. BNL (9-1) has already suffered a loss on that floor this season. But that doesn’t mean the danger of the tendency has vanished. The Stars will face a huge obstacle – quite literally – when they tangle with the Bulldogs on Saturday night.
Brownsburg features 6-6 sophomore Avery Gordon, a overpowering physical presence in the paint, and she’s a foot taller than most of the BNL roster. The Stars will have to cut her down to their size, and end the trend of setbacks in that arena.
“We haven’t had a lot of luck on that floor,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I like they way we’re playing, hopefully that will carry over and we can go up there to get rid of that jinx.”
Gordon is posting excellent numbers: 15.2 points (including 27 points against Crown Point during the Sneakers for Santa Showcase last month) and 9.2 rebounds. The supporting cast includes veterans Kailyn Terrell (10.3 points, 3.7 assists) and guard Megan Eaker (9.3 points).
“Avery has improved greatly the past six months,” Brownsburg coach Debbie Smiley said. “She finishes well around the basket and does a nice job of keeping the ball high.”
Brownsburg (5-5) suffered four straight losses in November, battling through a brutal schedule that included No.5 Noblesville and No.3 Hamilton Southeastern. The win over Crown Point has sparked a three-game winning streak.
“We did have a tough stretch of games against good opponents, all of which we led against late in the game but had a tough time finishing,” said Smiley, who has had the entire week of uninterrupted practice to prepare for BNL. “We don’t necessarily have a young team but an inexperienced team with only two returning players who played significant varsity minutes last year. Therefore, continued growth each day in practice has enabled our kids to gain more confidence and hopefully allows us to continue to play well and finish games as we progress through the season.”
BNL has proven the ability to handle backcourt threats, with future All-Stars Chloe Spreen (21.8 points) and Karsyn Norman (17.0), with solid contributions from Mallory Pride (9.3) and Madisyn Bailey (6.3), with key minutes from the bench. The Stars are able to assert maximum pressure, and that will be crucial as they attempt to keep Gordon in check.
“We’ll need some help from our bench people,” Allen said. “We have some kids on the bench (Emma Crane and Katie Baumgart) with some size, and they might have to check her off the boards and defend her a little bit.
“Speed is our ally. We’ll try to make it a baseline-to-baseline game, try to negate her a little bit.”
BNL won last year’s game 44-32 as Norman scored 11 points while Spreen and Bailey totaled 9 each. The Stars faltered late, scoring only two points in the fourth quarter. Eaker had 15 points (all on 3-pointers), but the Bulldogs hit only 12 of 51 shots while Gordon missed the game with an illness.
BNL’s three straight losses on the Brownsburg court have come against Brownsburg (43-42 on a last-second trey two years ago), Illinois power Fremd (41-40 during last year’s Showcase) and No.2 Zionsville (56-41 in this year’s Showcase).
BNL at BROWNSBURG
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 9-1, ranked No.4 in Class 4A; Brownsburg 5-5
Sagarin ratings: BNL 104.33; Brownsburg 92.67
Last meeting: Last year at BNL, the Stars (despite scoring only two points in the fourth quarter) powered to a 44-32 victory. Karsyn Norman paced BNL with 11 points. Megan Eaker had 15 points for the Bulldogs.
Previous game story: Stars roar early, stumble late
Game notes: BNL leads the series 3-1, but the Stars have lost three straight games on the Brownsburg court.
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.
F – Paige Kirtz 5-10 Sr.
C – Avery Gordon 6-6 So.
G – Emma Hendricks 5-8 Jr.
G – Kailyn Terrell 5-6 Sr.
G – Megan Eaker 5-7 Sr.