By Justin Sokeland
INDIANAPOLIS – One of those nets, from the shorn rims of rockin’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse, went home around the neck of Mallory Pride. No better necklace, except maybe that blue one with the gold medal attached, exists. She won’t get to keep all the nylon, it will be divided as spoils to the victors. But it was appropriate for her to handle the scissors. She did a lot of cutting down.
Bigger opponents? Snip. Superior interior reputations? Snip.
Bedford North Lawrence won a state championship on Saturday night, and there’s many reasons why. For all the star power, for all the deserved attention on the next-level superstars, titles are often won because of the X factor, the athlete who rises above the expectations. Pride was one of those.
In fact, the Stars had several this season. That’s why basketball is five-on-five, not two against the world. That gigantic trophy was awarded to the victorious team. Every piece was important, every contributor key. Let’s examine them.
Need a hero? Chloe Spreen was an obvious one. The junior was fabulous in the second half during the title clash with Fishers. She didn’t miss a shot, finished with 20 points. But when she was whistled for her fifth foul (a mild infraction for all the collisions that went without penalty) with 1:50 remaining, the Stars were on the brink of disaster.
Need another hero? Emma Brown was an oblivious one. The senior had scored only once all night, was averaging a modest 4.7 points per game. Fishers forgot about her, even when she got that Madisyn Bailey pass in the right corner. Her fake discarded one defender, but the others didn’t give her a second look. Until she attacked the basket, until she slid through a gaping hole in the defense for one of the biggest baskets in program history.
Need something done? Bailey did that, scoring 7 points and grabbing 8 boards, adding 5 assists. Her biggest contribution was on the defensive end. Her assignment was Fishers standout Hailey Smith, a Ball State recruit and the team scoring leader. Smith was limited to six points.
Need a leader? Karsyn Norman struggled through a rough offensive night. Missed 10 shots, scored two points. Didn’t faze her. She had four assists, only one turnover under intense pressure, and was another lock-down defender. She didn’t panic when Spreen fouled out. She got her team set, relied on everyone during their job. She was a perfect recipient of the Mental Attitude Award.
Need a bench spark? Emma Crane and Tori Nikirk were the choices. Not much in the box score, but NIkirk had a huge steal that preceded two Bailey free throws in the final minute. Crane was inserted to stop the bleeding when the Tigers were doing so much damage on the offensive boards.
Need a coach? Jeff Allen is like the prophet without honor in his own country. Guess what? He’s destined for the Hall of Fame. Compare his body of work to former BNL boys coach Dan Bush. Great high school career? Check. Division I collegiate player? Check. Indiana All-Star coach? Check. Multiple sectional and regional titles? Check. Over 200 wins? Check.
And now a state championship. Big check. One of these days, the Hall will call.
Need a hug? The Stars are experts. That wonderful swarm at midcourt when the final buzzer sounded set off countless embraces. Tears flowed. Joy unrestrained.
“Oh my gosh, this is insane,” Pride said. “It’s all tears of joy. No one can stop smiling. It’s crazy. We always dreamed of it, but little did we know it was actually going to happen.
“I will never, ever forget this.”
Need a dream? Norman publicly stated hers. Win a state championship. Many can say that, few can pull it off. She was almost numb when it finally came true, when they called her name for the Mental Attitude (the sixth in program history), when they handed out that huge trophy. How do you top that?
“I don’t even know,” Norman said. “It’s indescribable. It’s insane.”
And speaking of checking boxes, that’s Katie Baumgart’s job. She was the other senior who walked off the court with the other net around her neck. Got credited for two seconds of game action. Didn’t care. She was also leading some silent prayers on the BNL sideline when the situation was tense, when doubt was creeping, when angst was high.
“Our motto this year has been to knock on wood and pray,” Baumgart said. “We did both of those things.
“It feels amazing. we worked so hard for this. I said a couple of weeks ago, we had boxes to check off. We checked off the last one. It feels so good.”
During the postseason run, the unofficial motto was “Make It Happen.” BNL did just that. It was the only way this run of destiny could end.
BNL will host a community celebration on Monday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m.
ALL STATE FINAL TEAM
Chloe Spreen, BNL
Mallory Pride, BNL
Madisyn Bailey, BNL
Talia Harris, Fishers
Alycia Triplett, Fishers