Stars hit the magic number while conquering tough Center Grove in semistate semifinal

INDIANAPOLIS – BNL’s Chloe Spreen looks for a driving lane against Center Grove’s Rachel Wirts. Spreen scored 20 points as the Stars advanced to the semistate championship with a 50-43 win over the Trojans on Saturday morning.

By Justin Sokeland

INDIANAPOLIS – The magic number was 50. And now it’s 4. As in Final Four, as in Fantastic Four.

Pushed by the grittiest of defensive opponents, required to answer when tested under fourth-quarter pressure, Bedford North Lawrence responded with championship valor, powering to the semistate finale and earning a coveted place among Class 4A’s last foursome.

Spurred by a lightning start, reigned in by Center Grove’s tenacious defense, the Stars finally galloped away with a 50-43 victory over the Trojans during a tense semifinal on Saturday morning. BNL (25-3) will now battle Lawrence North in the semistate finale, needing one more victory to reach the promised land.

The reason so few stay on that straight-and-narrow road to Nirvana? It’s not easy. Veering off course, even an inch, would have been fatal. So BNL didn’t give an inch, although Center Grove (22-5) was no pushover. BNL got 20 points from sensational junior Chloe Spreen, made 12 free throws in the final 6 1/2 minutes, made important defensive stops during the final frantic minutes. That’s what championship teams do.

And the Stars hit the magic number of 50. Center Grove had allowed that many points only once all season, and it took Hamilton Southeastern an overtime to do that. While the Trojans (who were allowing only 34 points per game) found ways to exploit the interior, BNL survived the examination. At this point, any win is a passing grade.

“We knew it would be a battle,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “We got to 50. We felt if we got to 50, we would win. But they’re a really good team. We made enough plays to get the lead.”

BNL never surrendered the lead after taking it with a 9-0 burst in the first quarter. But the Trojans whittled away, like a wood carver with a sharp knife. They got back within one possession in the second quarter, got back within one point twice in the third (and finally tied it). The last one-point margin came when point guard Ella Hobson banked in a bomb (from the volleyball line, about 30-plus feet out) at the buzzer for a 32-31 difference. If momentum was going to favor either, that shot could have done it.

The Stars refused to shake. Emma Brown dove to a crucial 3-point play, Madisyn Bailey hit two free throws for a 39-33 advantage with 6:25 left, and BNL went into survival mode as Allen worked his chewing gum to a certain death on the sideline. No worries. Spreen made eight clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, Karsyn Norman found Mallory Pride for a layup as Center Grove came out to chase during the final 90 seconds, and Spreen iced the win with two final free throws with 4.3 seconds left.

Deep sigh of relief.

For the Stars, the start was just as important as the conclusion. Norman raced through the lane three times for buckets during the early blast, and Spreen splashed a corner trey for a 16-7 lead. Nothing came that easily after that.

INDIANAPOLIS – BNL’s Karsyn Norman drives to the basket against Center Grove’s Aina Williams. Norman totaled 10 points.

“It’s so hard to simulate Norman and Spreen’s athleticism and burst,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said. “You can talk about it, watch it, but it’s hard to simulate that. We worked all week on having help defenders in the gap, but we didn’t adjust to that. Once we settled in on understanding the burst they have, we got back to our principles.”

BNL threatened to race away, with Norman dashing the paint for a 3-point play and 21-11 lead with 3:42 left in the half. But Audrey Annee bounced in a trey, center Rachel Wirts worked loose for a layup, and Annee cut back door for a layup that got the Trojans back within striking range.

“They have spurtability, and they showed that,” Stuckmeyer said. “We wanted to be able to play the way we’re used to playing. If a team gets out of character because the game gets away a little bit, it’s hard to get it back. We were able to stay in character because we kept it close.”

And it stayed that way. Hobson buried another wing trey for a 28-28 deadlock at 2:29 of the third, but BNL came back with a Bailey bucket from the lane and a Spreen 12-footer in the paint. That set the stage for the dramatic Hobson launch and the white-knuckle moments in the fourth.

“At this level of play in the tournament, you’re hoping you start well,” Allen said. “And we did. That’s crucial. We’ve had some games where we struggled at the start, we really tried to make that a focus.

INDIANAPOLIS – BNL’s Mallory Pride works open for a layup. Pride scored 12 points.

“They’re a great team, great defensively. We felt like Chloe and Karsyn had an advantage, if we could isolate them. They make it tough to isolate them.“

Pride finished with 12 points and Norman added 10. No basket was bigger than Brown’s drive, no free throws more key than those converted by Spreen and Bailey during the closing minutes.

“That kid,” Allen said of Brown’s sudden decision to attack. “She’s a senior, she wants to win. Every once in a while, she makes a play offensively. That was a great play for us.

“It was great to see our kids respond. We’ve been in pressure situations like this. We’re experienced and I expect them to respond like that. All that hard work, we’re here and put ourselves in position. We’ve earned the right to be in position for the next goal, which is to play next weekend. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Aubrie Booker had 14 points (12 in the second half) and Annee added 13 for Center Grove, which suffered a final loss after an 18-game winning streak got the Trojans to the Elite Eight.

Lawrence North 70, Ben Davis 55 – In the second semifinal, the Wildcats (19-9) finished a season sweep of the Giants (18-10). The first clash was a one-point victory. This one was a first-half runaway as Lawrence North bolted to a 36-18 lead at intermission and held off a Ben Davis rally in the second.

Monica Williams paced Lawrence North with 22 points. Cristen Carter had 23 and Taylor Guess added 18 for the Giants.

Lawrence North and BNL have met in the 2020 semistate (the Wildcats won 53-43 at Jeffersonville) and the 2014 semistate (BNL won 62-54 in overtime at BNL).

”Chloe is great, Norman is great, a great program,’ LN coach Stephen Thomas said. “They have great shooters, a team that’s been together and played well together, won a lot of games together. It’s a great test for us.”

In the northern semistate, Fishers edged Fort Wayne Snider 67-66, while Lake Central upset No.1 South Bend Washington 62-57.

INDIANAPOLIS – BNL’s Emma Brown scans the court for an opening. Brown had a huge fourth-quarter basket.


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

2 Chloe Spreen, f 1-1 5-7 9-10 3 2 20

22 Mallory Pride, f 0-0 4-5 4-7 3 0 12

24 Madisyn Bailey, g 0-0 1-2 3-4 4 2 5

20 Emma Brown, g 0-1 1-2 1-1 0 5 3

21 Karsyn Norman, g 0-2 4-10 2-3 2 0 10

32 Trinidy Bailey 0-0 0-0 0-2 1 1 0

Totals 1-4 15-26 19-27 14 10 50


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

2 Audrey Annee, f 3-4 5-9 0-0 2 2 13

20 Savanna Bischoff, f 0-2 0-2 0-0 2 2 0

33 Rachel Wirts, c 0-0 4-4 0-0 5 3 8

23 Ella Hobson, g 2-3 3-5 0-0 3 2 8

3 Aubrie Booker, g 0-0 6-10 2-4 6 1 14

15 Aina Williams 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 3 0

24 Lilly Bischoff 0-1 0-2 0-0 1 2 0

12 Ali Wiesmann 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

22 Lindsey Walker 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 5-9 18-33 2-4 21 16 43

Bedford NL 16 6 10 18 – 50

Center Grove 7 11 13 12 – 43

Turnovers – BNL 8, Center Grove 17

Field goal percentage – BNL 15-26 (.577); Center Grove 18-33 (.545)

Free throw percentage – BNL 19-27 (.704); Center Grove 2-4 (.500)


Lawrence North (19-9) – Kya Hurt 3, KaNyriah Ridley 2, Kamara Mills 9, Monica Williams 22, Laniya Early 11, Victoria Guyse 2, Ellysa Morris 3, Natalia Franklin 8, Makayla Washington-Cobb 2, Jamaya Thomas 8

Ben Davis (18-10) – Scottlynn Johnson 2, Hermoni Andrew 2, Kaleah Toomer 5, Cristen Carter 23, Zoe Wheeler 5, Taylor Guess 18.