STATE FINAL: Legacy, tradition motivate Stars as they chase fifth state championship

BNL coach Jeff Allen and the Stars will seek the program’s fifth state title when BNL faces Fishers in the Class 4A championship on Saturday night.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – According to Pericles, an Ancient Greek politician and general, legacy is not carved in stone. “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” At Bedford North Lawrence, where tradition hangs from the ceiling above the court and decorates the hallways around the Fieldhouse, that is absolutely true.

Just about every family member of this current roster owns pictures of their little girls who watched their heroes, posing with the athletes who won titles before them. The imprint of the past Stars on those wide-eyed kids who dreamed of wearing that uniform, their impact on the generations to follow, was immeasurable. The footsteps were hard to follow, like a child trying to match the father’s stride.

Now it’s the new age, and it’s their turn.

BNL will chase another state title when it battles Fishers in the Class 4A state championship on Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Stars (26-3) are making a triumphant return to the finale after a nine-year absence, looking to win the program’s fifth crown, while the Tigers (26-2) are making their debut in the spotlight of the grand stage. It’s basketball’s version of Carnegie Hall, everyone wants to play there. Only one will leave in glory.

What a journey for the Stars. With great expectations, with self-imposed pressure to add another banner to the collection, they have battled through adversity (minor injuries, illnesses, the constant target of upset-hungry opponents, two tough semistate clashes) to finally reach the finals for the first time since 2014.

BNL senior guard Karsyn Norman dreams of “standing on a stage with a huge trophy in my hand.”

“We’re just thrilled to have the chance to do that,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “It’s a special time. The hardest part is getting here. Now we have to come out, do what we do, perform the best we can.”

BNL’s best is terrific. With scoring leader and Junior All-Star candidate Chloe Spreen (19.0 after a superb performance in the semistate wins over Center Grove and Lawrence North) at the point of the attack, with senior Miss Basketball candidate and Butler recruit Karsyn Norman (16.0, 4.2 assists) running the show and locking down opposing point guards, the Stars have been a swarming storm. Both have scored over 1,000 career points, and Norman just set the school record for career assists (348).

And there’s more. Senior forward Mallory Pride has emerged as a serious threat (10.8 points, 6.9 rebounds), while junior Madisyn Bailey (7.6 points) has been a dual contributor, scoring at key moments while also serving as a second defensive stopper.

Fishers will counter with its own dynamic defense. The Tigers allow only 45.3 points per game, with senior twins Hailey and Olivia Smith as the anchors. They also lead the team in scoring (12.1 and 10.6 respectively).

The Tigers are making their first deep tournament run, winning regional and semistate titles for the first time in their short history. BNL has been there six previous times, but that history has been a motivational force. The Stars have realized a dream, and they want to complete it . . .

“Standing on a stage,” Norman said, “with a huge trophy in my hand.”

BNL junior Chloe Spreen leads the Stars in scoring at 19.0 points per game.

“Us holding the trophy at the end,” Pride added. “That will be crazy. Last week was insane, and now it will be a bigger stadium, even more fans. It will be crazy. Last week was something to never forget, this week will be even better.”

That will take some work. For one of the few times this season, the Stars are not favored by the Sagarin computer ratings. Comparing scores, which is tricky and often unreliable, points to more equality. Fishers topped Noblesville (which bested BNL twice) during two meetings, including a fierce 67-64 win in double overtime during the sectional. However, the Stars were able to blow out common foes (Jeffersonville, Brownsburg, Castle and Lake Central). For what that’s worth.

Allen is making his third trip to the final (the first two as an assistant in 2013-14), and that experience could be key.

“I’ve been here before,” Allen said. “I understand what it’s like for the coaches and the players. It’s a tremendous advantage, knowing what to expect.

“I’ve had a tremendous staff (Chase Spreen, Brett Holtz, Erin Bradley and D.J. Horton) that has been there to help me. It’s a job you can’t do on your own. I’ve always had good coaches. They have great basketball minds. For the most part, we agree on how the game should be played and what needs to be done. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Among 4A programs, BNL and Ben Davis own the most titles. Allen is looking to join predecessors Pete Pritchett (1983, 1991), Kurt Godlevske (2013) and Damon Bailey (2014) with a championship. He’s already validated his place among his peers with 205 wins while continuing the current run of 12 straight sectional titles.

“It’s the satisfaction in knowing I’ve kept it, since taking over nine years ago, where it was when Kurt and Damon left,” Allen said. “Players come and player go, but could we keep the program at a high level? From a success factor, that makes me feel like I’ve done my best, to keep it where it should be.”

Senior guard Emma Brown and the Stars have extended the program’s state record for postseason wins.



When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. in Indianapolis

Records: Fishers 26-2, ranked No.3; BNL 26-34, ranked No.7

Sagarin ratings: Fishers 104.05; BNL 101.99

Last meeting: This is the first game between the teams.

Game notes: BNL has won four start titles in six previous trips. BNL also holds the state record for postseason wins with 158. Fishers has won 20 consecutive games.

Starting lineups

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.

Fishers Tigers

F – Alysia Triplett 5-10 Sr.

F – Talia Harris 5-8 Jr.

G – Hailey Smith 5-10 Sr.

G – Olivia Smith 5-10 Sr.

G – Joirdyn Smith 5-4 Jr.