Been there, done that. Stars celebrate 12th consecutive sectional championship

BNL senior Karsyn Norman and the Stars cut down the nets after winning their 12th straight Class 4A sectional title on Saturday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – One by one, they climbed the ladder, and they knew the way to the top while claiming their piece of the most prized postseason trophy. Been there, done that. Wouldn’t it have been perfectly coincidental for that ladder to have 12 steps? One for each championship trophy, for each cord of net cut down during this amazing Bedford North Lawrence streak.

One by one, the Stars counted off the titles during their postgame moment on the court. One through 12. In this era of class basketball, winning successive sectional championships is an achievement. Winning 12 straight was previously unfathomable, especially in Class 4A. Talent goes in cycles, yet BNL’s dominance continues.

BNL continued its remarkable run, winning Sectional 15 on Saturday night. For the five-player senior class, it was like Groundhog Day, the same scene over and over. They’ve never experienced loss at this level, they never even witnessed it during their entire NLCS careers. These Stars are the eighth straight senior class to complete a four-year span with a sectional title.

Talk about a legacy. Talk about pressure to keep that streak going, to be envied for that success and hunted by everyone else in the tournament. BNL’s reign has been incredible.

“It’s awesome, that we’ve been a part of something so big, winning 12 sectionals in a row,” BNL senior Emma Brown said. “We’re only a small part of that. I take it as a compliment, to be the one team that everybody wants to beat. To have the fight we have, to not let anybody beat us. It’s a nice feeling.“

BNL’s Emma Brown and the senior class never saw a sectional loss during their NLCS careers.

The numbers are boggling. That’s 36 consecutive sectional wins. Some of those have been sensational thrillers, ranked among the great wins in programs history, topped by the double-overtime battle with Jeffersonville in the 2018 final. Some were masterpieces, like the devastating runs in 2014, winning three by an average of 30.3 points, and 2020 (winning average 36.7).

That’s 32 sectional crowns in programs history, a tradition that weighs heavy. This set will be remembered because of that pressure. It was handled with grace and aplomb. Playing at home, as overwhelming favorites, the Stars were supposed to win.

“I feel like there’s so much pressure every year, but we have to stay calm and collected,” senior Emma Crane said. “It’s hard, it would be hard for anyone. We have to remind ourselves that we know what we’re doing, take a deep breath and play the game.”

“We have to prepare ourselves mentally,” senior Katie Baumgart said. “You have to be mentally strong to win this many in a row.”

That toughness was demanded during the first two rounds. Jennings County battled within 34-32 late in the third quarter. That was answered with big shots (Chloe Spreen and Karsyn Norman), big plays (Madisyn Bailey’s steal for a bucket) and a huge run (11-2 to a comfort zone). Jeffersonville clawed within 33-31 midway through the third quarter of the semifinal. That response was a 16-3 burst, with senior Mallory Pride scoring 7 points in that blast. That resolve was evident during a 13-2 opening against Silver Creek in the final.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but it keeps the energy up,” Pride said. “We were so excited. I can’t stop smiling about it.”

BNL coach Jeff Allen issues instructions as the Stars worked their way to another sectional title.

Next? A chance to cut down more net for the huge collection. BNL (23-3) will host either Jasper or Evansville Central in a one-game regional on Feb. 11. So far, those cords have been ripped off rims from all six gymnasiums in the rotation. This senior class would like to add a second regional to the knot of nylon.

“I keep them all,” Pride said. “I remember where I got each of them.”

How many pieces will BNL collect? That’s the question with this team. Norman has made the state championship an announced goal. That requires four more wins.

“We can go all the way,” Norman said. “We have all the pieces. It comes down to teamwork. It’s all just chemistry, making smart plays.”

Pressure, expectations, toughness. What about fun? Is anyone having fun? Winning is definitely fun.

“It’s always fun,” Crane said. “We have our ups and downs, but at the end of the day we’re with each other and we know what we’re doing.”

BNL certainly knows what it’s doing. Times 12. Capped by the traditional team meeting on the Bedford square to dance late at night.

Central and Jasper will complete the Evansville Harrison sectional on Monday night.