By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The easy button got disconnected during the draw for the Class 4A sectional at Seymour. With the three co-champions of the Hoosier Hills Conference lumped together in the upper half of the bracket, the road to the championship will be bumpy and tough for the top contenders.
Bedford North Lawrence, 15-6 and one of the three sharing the league title, will face No.9 Jennings County (18-2) in the opening game of the first stage of the postseason tournament on Feb. 28. Jeffersonville (11-8) drew a bye and will await the winner of that top-heavy opener in the semifinal round.
In the lower half of the six-team field, Floyd Central (6-15) will clash with New Albany (9-11) in the first round, with that winner advancing to collide with Seymour (8-12) in the second semifinal on March 3. The championship game is scheduled for March 4.
The Panthers already own a 51-40 win over the Stars at BNL Fieldhouse on Jan. 14. While a road loss to Jeffersonville forced the three-way split of the conference crown, Jennings is still considered the team to beat. And BNL welcomes the chance to do that in the rematch.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Somebody has to knock them off, it might as well be us. We’ve got the revenge factor going for us, but obviously they’re a very good team.
“It wasn’t the way we would have drawn it up. The ping-ping balls didn’t fall our way this time. But this is a group of kids that has overcome a lot, there’s been a lot of doubt out there and they’ve found ways to win games. If there’s a group of kids that can get it done, it’s this group.”
Jennings, chasing its first sectional title since 2005, pulled away from the Stars in the second half during the first encounter. Owen Law had 15 points and Keegan Manowitz added 12. Kole Bailey paced the Stars with 15 points during a rare start.
In the lower half, New Albany already holds a 44-40 victory over the Highlanders on Dec. 9, although the Owls are in prime position with a bye.
“Putting arguably the best three teams in the top bracket makes it tough,” Hein said. “It brings the other three teams into play. Our bracket will be a battle, and whoever gets to Saturday night, it will be tough for them to win.”
The sectional champion will return to Seymour for the one-game regional on March 11. BNL’s last sectional title came in 2001.