By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – From a young age, children are taught to share. It’s a learned skill, because impulse control develops late, and it might come in handy in making friends, playing cooperatively and surviving an unforgiving world.
But winning a championship? Gotta be supremely selfish. Don’t give ‘em anything. Bedford North Lawrence is not in the mood to surrender any portion of its most coveted and valuable regular-season prize. Like the kid protecting a favorite toy . . . “Mine!”
The Stars have already secured a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference title, for the 22nd time in program history, but that’s not enough. They want it all, and they want it now. One last challenge remains as No.6 BNL (17-3 overall, 5-0 in the HHC) seeks to claim the outright crown.
BNL will conclude its conference run at Floyd Central (8-9, 2-2) on Saturday afternoon. So far, the Stars have dominated the league, winning by an average of 31.4 points per game. That’s pretty impressive, considering BNL is the target for the rest of the conference. But that means the Stars must fend off one more attack from the bounty hunters.
Nothing can be taken for granted.
“You’re on the road against a conference opponent, you have to play with a level of intensity,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “We have to match that. I know Floyd will be prepared to play.
“That’s part of being successful. It comes with the territory, and you have to embrace that if you want to have continued success. Your kids have to understand that, be prepared to play at that level every game. It’s a hard thing to do. It’s how you prepare. If you prepare to meet that challenge every game, if the kids are focused, you can continue it.”
Why so much focus on this title? There’s not even a trophy with it. Doesn’t earn any better positioning for the postseason. It’s all about pride and competition. This conference has a powerful history and tradition (with three programs winning state championships), and six of the seven have been lumped together in the same sectional since the introduction of the class system for the 1998 state tournament.
“Our conference is our biggest rivals,” BNL senior Emma Brown said. “So being able to beat every single one of them is big.
“It shows we’re all playing for each other, we’re playing as a whole. We’re doing it for each other, we’ve all worked so hard for it. It means a lot to us. There’s support for each other. We never let each other hold our heads down.”
“It’s the competition between the schools, over the decades, that continues to grow and flourish,” Allen said. “For us, we’ve had a lot of success, so we have a target on our backs. Everybody is cheering against us and everybody wants to beat us. It’s an accomplishment we set every year, because our conference is pretty challenging. If we can win our conference, that’s a big part of having a successful year.”
So what about the Highlanders? They have extreme size along the front line, with 6-2 senior center Callie Celichowski the main weapon among a trio of six-footers. They own a signature win over Columbus East, which tested BNL for three quarters in its most recent outing.
“They’ve got some nice pieces, some kids with some size,” Allen said. “And they have some perimeter kids who have the ability to score. For us, it’s always been a challenge to rebound against kids with size. We’ll have to make contact and go get the basketball. We’ll try to pressure them and make things difficult.”
BNL made things unbearable for Floyd last season, cruising to a pair of lopsided wins. The Stars won the regular-season clash 62-28 at BNL (with Chloe Spreen scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 boards, with Karsyn Norman adding 17 points), then repeated that beatdown with a 61-16 triumph in the Class 4A sectional semifinal. The Stars blasted to an 18-0 lead, allowed Floyd to hit only 5 of 40 shots.
But in case anyone gets too comfortable, there’s always the memory of BNL’s stunning loss at Floyd during the 2018-19 season. The Stars made that trip under similar circumstances, looking to clinch the outright league title, and suffered a 36-26 setback. Going undefeated is still difficult, no matter how favored BNL might be on the computer rankings.
“We’re more determined to do so,” BNL senior reserve Emma Crane said. “Coach Allen really wants us to do it. It would mean a lot for us to do that.”
Spreen leads BNL in scoring at 20.2 (plus 5.5 rebounds), Norman is totaling 16.9 after her career-high 37 points at East (plus 4.8 assists), and Mallory Pride is contributing 10.9 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds.
BNL at FLOYD CENTRAL
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 17-3 (5-0 in HHC), ranked No.6 in Class 4A; Floyd Central 8-9 (2-2 in HHC)
Sagarin ratings: BNL 102.05; Floyd Central 71.58
Last meeting: The Stars swept two games from the Highlanders last season, winning the regular-season game 62-28 at BNL, then posting a dominating 61-16 victory in the sectional semifinal at Jeffersonville.
Previous game story: Stars buzz through Floyd Central
Game notes: BNL has already clinched a share of its 22nd league title. The Stars have won 14 outright conference championships, the last in 2015. BNL has won four straight in the series.
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.
Floyd Central Highlanders
F – Nora Gibson 6-0 So.
F – Elise Coleman 6-0 Fr.
C – Callie Celichowski 6-2 Sr.
G – Ava Hausz 5-5 So.
G – Carly Fonda 5-10 So.