By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The moment is immortal, carved into time and memories, saved for history and cherished forever by those who were part of the ultimate triumph. Bedford North Lawrence’s 2023 Class 4A state championship, a celestial celebration for the Stars, has become another treasured part of the program’s fabric and tradition.
BNL will honor the program’s fifth state title when it reveals the newest championship banner for the crowded northeast corner of BNL Fieldhouse, and presents the keepsake rings to the members of that team, prior to Saturday night’s annual county clash with Mitchell.
Oh what a night, late February back in ‘23. What a very special time for the Stars. As they all remember, what a night. BNL’s tough 46-42 win over Fishers in that tense finale, capped by last-minute hero Emma Brown, was an epic for the ages. When the final horn sounded, when the roars of joy crashed down on the court from above as the team swarmed together for the greatest of group hugs, the Stars were indeed perfectly aligned.
“I think about that moment,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I think everyone probably will, time and time again, for the rest of our lives. It brings tears of joy when you think about it. It’s a special thing that very few people get to do.
“It’s quite an achievement, and I hope they realize that.”
BNL’s banner reveal and ring ceremony will be part homecoming (for the graduated seniors who have been RSVPed for their return) and part living reminder for those assigned to defend that crown for this encore season. Life has moved on for some, but they will be welcomed back with open arms.
“It will be fun, having all the girls back and reliving the moment,” BNL senior Chloe Spreen said. “I’ll never forget all the memories. It was a great time. And it’s good for the team now, those who are new, to see that, to have the same mindset that we want that feeling again.”
In fact, the Stars watched highlights from that Fishers victory prior to the season opener with Mooresville. “To remind us of what our goals are this year,” senior Madisyn Bailey said.
BNL (2-0 and ranked No.3 in 4A) has taken the first steps toward that repeat, hammering Mooresville and Bloomington North during the launch. Now the Stars will make their home debut, facing a rival that has yet to achieve liftoff.
The Bluejackets (0-1) have the distinction of facing two state champions in their first three games. They started with a 68-12 loss to Class A defender Lanesville. After a second road trip to Perry Central for their PLAC premiere on Friday night, Mitchell will finish its harsh and fiery baptismal road trip with a unenviable but short journey to BNL Fieldhouse.
Dakota Brasher, Mitchell’s new coach, might want to talk to the scheduler. His young team could have used more cushion on the springboard. But the Jackets will also face Class A No.5 Springs Valley and 2A toughie Brownstown in a couple of weeks, and their sectional includes current 2A No.1 North Knox.
“We don’t look ahead on the schedule,” said Brasher, a former student manager under Tom Crean at Indiana before also serving as assistant coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff prior to his return to his Southern Indiana roots. “We have to live the moment. Every day in practice, we’re there to get better. Every game we play, we’re there to get better, We do have a tough schedule, but it doesn’t get any easier for us down the road. We can’t shy away from the competition. We have to compete and get better each and every night. That’s our mentality.”
Mitchell was introduced to the difficulty of top-tier competition at Lanesville. The Jackets fell down 22-0 and had 29 first-half turnovers. When Mitchell did get the ball into the attacking zone, Jillian Bond had 9 points.
“On offense, we’re trying to mature, and we’re trying to mature quickly,” Brasher said. “We have to limit our turnovers right now, that’s our big concern.
“We’re not looking at the opponent across from us. We have to handle our business the best we can. We have to handle what we can control, to the best of our ability. We can compete, play hard, fly around. We’re worried about ourselves.”
That will be BNL’s mindset as well. No matter the travails of the opponent, the Stars have their own standard.
“We just need to stay at our level,” Bailey said.
BNL certainly did that during last year’s trip to Mitchell. The Stars blasted to a 45-15 lead at halftime and triggered the running clock two minutes into the second half during a 78-20 runaway win. Karsyn Norman had 17 points, Spreen totaled 15, Mallory Pride added 14 and Bailey finished with 13 as BNL won for the 13th straight time in the series.
In fact, BNL’s winning margin during that streak is an incredible 42.6 points, and the margin has been 50-plus four times.
“We know they’re struggling, with a new coach, and they’re very young,” Allen said. “We have experience, we’re hungry, we have goals to achieve. We’ll come out and play hard. That’s our focus, no matter who we play.”
Spreen, one of the frontrunners for Miss Basketball, leads BNL in scoring (24.5) and rebounding (8.5). Freshman forward Miley Sherrill is off to a blazing start, averaging 15.0 points while hitting 13 of 15 shots. Bailey is contributing 12.0 points and 6.0 assists after dishing out 8 assists at Bloomington North.
“We’ll play at our level, every single game,” Spreen said, “no matter if it’s Bloomington North, Lawrence North or Mitchell.”
MITCHELL at BNL
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Mitchell 0-1 (at Perry Central on Friday); BNL 2-0, ranked No.3 in Class 4A
Last meeting: Last year at Mitchell, the Stars blasted to a 78-20 triumph. Karsyn Norman had 17 points and Chloe Spreen totaled 15 for BNL. The Bluejackets were limited to one basket in the second half and committed 30 turnovers.
Previous game story: Speed kills as Stars zoom past Jackets
Game notes: BNL has won the last 13 games in the series by an average margin of 42.6 points. BNL will reveal the 2023 state championship banner and conduct a ring ceremony for last year’s champions during a pregame celebration.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Chloe Spreen 5-10 Sr.
F – Miley Sherrill 5-9 Fr.
G- Tori Nikirk 5-6 Jr.
G – Madisyn Bailey 5-9 Sr.
G – Trinidy Bailey 5-7 So.
F – Jillian Bond 5-11 Sr.
F – Gracyn Thompson 6-1 Jr.
G – Briley Dicks 5-8 Sr.
G – Paisley Modglin 5-6 So.
G – Leighanne Thompson 5-6 Fr.