By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – For the first time in nine years, Bedford North Lawrence took a true holiday basketball break. No games between the Christmas-New Year’s Day bookends. Time for a little rest and relaxation. The Stars are going to need that.
From this point, the Stars will be busier than popcorn in the microwave, facing nine games in the month of January (and 16 games during the next 8 weeks), starting with Tuesday’s renewal of the series with Martinsville.
BNL (3-3) and Martinsville (4-5) haven’t clashed in 10 years, dating back to Martinsville’s 60-40 triumph during its last trip to BNL Fieldhouse. The Stars haven’t left John Wooden Gymnasium, named for one of the state legends, with a victory since 2010.
However, BNL and Martinsville have already collided this season. The programs previewed this resumption during the IHSAA sanctioned scrimmage on Nov. 17 at BNL. What was learned during those four quarters of competition? Very little separates them.
“It’s like looking in a mirror,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. “They mirror us in everything we do. They try to spread you out, shoot the three well, a kid who can score around the basket, they can all shoot the ball. It will be tough up there.”
The Artesians feature perimeter threat Brody Staggs (14.0 per game) and versatile scorer Caleb Cheatham (12.0). Martinsville started the season in solid fashion, with head coach Kip Staggs pointing to defensive toughness as the reason, then faltered against three straight quality opponents. Double-digit losses to Columbus North, Plainfield and No.8 Center Grove (combined records of 25-7) stopped the momentum, as did a recent 50-43 loss to Seymour.
BNL will counter with senior Colten Leach, coming off an incredible 41-point explosion against Mooresville that pushed his average to 22.0. Colton Staggs is adding 9.5 points while Kaedyn Bennett is contributing 8.7.
“They have really good players,” Staggs, now in his 10th season with the Artesians, said. “Their guys are tough, they compete, they can be patient. I’m really impressed with the toughness of the team. I don’t think their record is indicative of the team they are. And any time you have a guy that can score 40, it gives you a chance.”
Leach had 19 points and Staggs added 11 as BNL ‘won’ the scrimmage test (with scripted defenses during each quarter) with Martinsville 51-42. Brody Staggs had 17 and freshman Grady Gardner had 9 off the bench for the Artesians.
The Stars have had plenty of time to recover from the thrilling, but heartbreaking, 71-70 overtime loss to Mooresville on Dec. 21. Leach was unstoppable that night, yet BNL came up one defensive stop from a huge home win for the second time. They do have a two-game road winning streak.
“We showed a lot of grit in that game to get to overtime,” Hein said. “We kept scrapping and finding ways. I wanted to win that one, but it was a great game for us, a learning experience. It says a lot about our kids.
”We could legitimately be 5-1 right now. We took some time to rest and freshen legs, and I watched a lot of tournament games over the break, kind of wished we were playing in one. But we’re playing a NBA schedule from here out. We’ll try to use the rest to our advantage.”
BNL at MARTINSVILLE
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 3-3; Martinsville 4-5
Sagarin ratings: BNL 76.50; Martinsville 67.53
Last meeting: Martinsville posted a 60-40 win during the 2012-13 season.
Game notes: BNL leads the series 26-12.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Kaedyn Bennett 6-2 Sr.
F – Colten Leach 6-2 Sr.
G – Colton Staggs 6-0 Sr.
G – Trace Rynders 5-9 Jr.
G – Noah Godlevske 5-8 Jr.
F – Caleb Cheatham 6-3 Sr.
F – Jack Wolff 6-2 Sr.
G – Will Bastin 6-0 Sr.
G – Brody Staggs 6-2 Sr.
G – Skyler Pruett 6-0 Sr.