Stars, Bluejackets seek consistency as they prepare to renew county rivalry

BNL senior Colten Leach, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and the Stars will face Mitchell in the renewal of the county rivalry on Friday night.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Consistency is defined as “conformity in application, typically necessary for the sake of logic or accuracy.” What can be counted on? As both Lawrence County basketball teams prepare for the annual renewal of the neighborhood rivalry, that question still remains.

For Bedford North Lawrence, the mystery has been game to game. For Mitchell, it’s been quarter to quarter. To quote musical legend Don Henley, “Give me something – something I can use. People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry. Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down.”

In this County Clash, the Stars have done the kicking, winning 36 straight times and holding a dictatorial 47-1 overall advantage. And they’ll be expected to extend those amazing numbers when the Bluejackets invade BNL Fieldhouse on Friday night.

What can BNL (5-4) count on? It should be experience, with three seniors in the starting lineup, with two more playing key minutes off the bench. There have been flashes, promises. One night, the defense has struggled, another it’s been getting shots to fall. What can the Bluejackets (3-11) rely on? The learning curve of youth. Multiple times, including a season opener that set a sour tone, they’ve allowed double-digit leads to slip away in the second half. Somebody will figure it out.

“When our experience shows up, it’s nice,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. “We’ve had a roller-coaster season to this point. We’ve played well at times, we’ve played poorly at times. I think they’re the same way.”

Mitchell coach Jackson Ryan, a 2013 BNL graduate, hopes to end BNL’s long winning streak in the series.

So let’s examine Mitchell first. Four times, they’ve had significant leads in winnable games. That started with the opener against Springs Valley, when the Jackets blasted to a 20-point lead after three quarters (and pushed that to 25 early in the fourth). Close that out, and it’s great momentum. But it slipped away, and it’s happened since. With only one senior in the lineup, with sophomores and a freshman playing important minutes, that’s not unusual.

“We’re a young team with not a lot of varsity experience,” said Mitchell coach Jackson Ryan, a BNL alum making another homecoming visit. “We’ve had to learn how to play, and we’ve had four or five games where we had a lead at halftime. Three of those were double digits. And we just let it slip. The next step is to learn how to win.

“We have to figure things out offensively. That’s our biggest bug-a-boo right now, especially in the second half of games. You have to learn how to finish games. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to do that. We have the talent, we just have to come together.”

Mitchell’s most consistent factor has been the scoring of junior Ben Seitzinger (11.2). The Bluejackets, who have been held under 40 points five times this season, just need another double-digit contributor.

“Ben has been great for us,” Ryan said. “His leadership is No.1. When you lose as many seniors as we did, vocally and by example, that’s a lot of shoes to fill. We’ve asked him to score a lot more his year, and he’s stepped up to do everything we’ve asked. He’s gone above and beyond his expectations this year.”

Mitchell’s Ben Seitzinger leads the Bluejackets in scoring at 11.2 points per game.
Photo courtesy of Noah Dalton

“Ben is a just a good athlete,” Hein said. “He plays hard. He’s a kid you’d love to have on your team because he’s a competitor. He will compete every night.”

Now let’s examine the Stars. They seek balance, and when they get it, they’ve been successful. Senior wing Colten Leach (the scoring leader at 19.2 and rebounding demon at 10.1) has been a double-double machine and erupted for 41 points against Mooresville. Senior guard Colton Staggs has averaged 10.8 points, and junior guard Noah Godlevske has had big moments (Columbus East and South Knox).

“I don’t think they’ve played their best basketball yet,” Ryan said. “That is to come. They have a special group of upperclassmen, especially in the backcourt. When you have guard play, you have a chance. When you’ve got Staggs and Leach, then throw in some shooters, they’re tough to guard.”

Last year, BNL bolted to a 65-31 victory, with Jett Jones scoring a career-high 14 points, with Leach adding 12 points and 12 boards. But Hein will point back to the 2019-20 season (his first with the program and his introduction to the dangers of this rivalry), when BNL was fortunate to escape with a 56-55 win.

“There’s that one game a year that’s a rivalry game,” Hein said. “Anything can happen in those games, as we found out. Throw all the records out. There’s a lot of emotion in those games. We’re always the favorite, they’re coming in as the underdog. That makes for an interesting situation, because we have the pressure on us. They can play as free as they want.”

Just once, Mitchell would finally love to do the kicking. That hasn’t happened since 1986. Ryan has been on both sides.

“It’s a different outlook,” he said. “Every game we step out there, we want to win and compete. And this game is no different. It’s the county rivalry, you’ve grown up with the kids sitting on the other bench, and it means more.

“The bottom line for us, we have to continue to get better. It will take time. On the flip side, we’re also halfway through the season.”

BNL senior guard Colton Staggs is averaging 10.8 points.


When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Mitchell 3-11; BNL 5-4

Sagarin ratings: Mitchell 45.31; BNL 76.13

Last meeting: Last year at Mitchell, Jett Jones scored 14 points as BNL rolled to a 65-31 victory. Colten Leach had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Stars, while Nick Mundy had 11 points for the Bluejackets.

Previous game story: Big ol’ Jett carries BNL airliner

Game notes: BNL leads the series 47-1 with 36 consecutive wins (the Bluejackets won in 1986). Mitchell coach Jackson Ryan graduated from BNL in 2013.

Starting lineups

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.

Mitchell Bluejackets

F – Ben Seitzinger 6-1 Jr.

F – Kale England 6-2 Jr.

G – Austin Mosier 6-0 So.

G – Brendan Tolliver 6-0 Sr.

G – Gavin Robinson 5-10 Fr.