By Justin Sokeland
INDIANAPOLIS – Bedford North Lawrence had to pass a geometry test, without studying. Determine the properties of a triangle and solve the complex problem. No calculators allowed, just rely on common basketball sense.
With BNL’s two top scorers swarmed by defenders, the Stars needed a third option. North Central’s tricky triangle-and-two defensive alignment demanded that. Katie Godlevske dared to accept that challenge and made the Panthers pay the ultimate price.
Left open while North Central gave BNL’s best the respect of constant attention, Godlevske buried three treys during a decisive third-quarter burst as the second-ranked Stars fought through some first-time adversity for a tough 51-39 road victory on Friday night. Godlevske scored a career-high 14 points in her first start and Chloe Spreen added 13 as BNL (5-0) won a road game in this series for only the second time.
North Central (better than its 0-5 record) went to the triangle with the intent to slow down Spreen and Madisyn Bailey. And it worked well. Spreen, one of the first mentioned in the Miss Basketball conversation, spent a lot of energy to get free. Bailey was limited to five points. Both were held to less than half their averages.
That’s why the perimeter bombs from Godlevske, and the bench points from Tori Nikirk during that third-quarter breakaway, were so important. The Stars were scuffling and struggling during the first half, breathing hard to make it to halftime with an 18-16 lead. Then Godlevske got hot, creating separation. Then Nikirk swished her own bomb and raced to a 3-point play for a double-digit lead. BNL could breathe a little easier. The upset was avoided.
BNL’s start, down 6-0 in four minutes while Spreen was whistled for two fouls, could not have been worse. The second half could not have been much better as the Stars found the openings in that triangle.
“We got off to a slow start, that triangle-and-two is not something we had worked on,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “So it’s just going to pay dividends down the road. In those types of situations, that’s a great teaching moment. You can’t simulate that in practice. Your top player gets two fouls, you’re not shooting well, and they’re running a junk defense.”
His answer? “Stay calm, we’ll figure it out,” he said. “We finally did.”
Triangles have three sides, and BNL had a threesome of unexpected contributors. In addition to Godlevske and Nikirk, freshman Miley Sherrill added 8 points, all in the second half. The angles of triangles total 180 degrees, and BNL’s turnaround after intermission was also that – a 180-degree recovery after such a frustrating first half.
North Central took advantage of BNL’s confusion and lack of confidence (2 of 13 shooting) for an 11-5 lead after the first quarter (Godlevske had all 5). Momentum started to shift in the second when Spreen got free from the shackles for two baskets and Bailey popped a trey from the key.
Then came the Godlevske eruption. Splash from the corner, swish from the opposite corner, and a third from the same spot. Sherrill converted a layup off a Trinidy Bailey backcourt theft, and Nikirk capped a 9-2 finishing run with her 3-pointer from the right wing and her fast-break gallop to the and-one bucket for a 38-27 lead.
“We’ve been waiting for Katie to find her groove, her and Tori both,” Allen said. “They’re both capable of shooting the ball, they both contributed.”
Godlevske had totaled 14 points during the first four games, and Nikirk had hit only one of her first 12 shots during the same span. So North Central coach Dee Ann Ramey’s move to the “junk” defense was calculated correctly. Analytics is the new-age term. Play the game by the numbers. See if someone else can score.
“They did,” Ramey said with a wry smile. “We got out of it what we wanted. We felt that was the best defense we could throw at them, see if it worked.”
“Chloe and Madisyn were guarded really tough, all the other girls had to step up,” Godlevske said. “It was exciting. Everyone was working together to make that happen. We all just did our jobs.
“We all started off rough, everyone was making silly mistakes. But frustration would have made it worse. We had to stay in it together.”
Gabrielle Burrus paced the Panthers with 13 points while Kaitlyn Hoff added 11 and Kaiden Kreinhagen, an Evansville recruit, finished with 9.
For the time time this season, BNL was a rebounding force, winning that battle by a whopping 37-22 margin. Spreen and Bella Jackson grabbed 8 each.
“I’m really thrilled,” Allen said. “Their record doesn’t show who they are. By January they’ll be a much better team. To come in here, and not shoot well, I’m proud of my kids. It’s a great road win.”
BNL will return home to host Jeffersonville in the Hoosier Hills Conference opener on Saturday night. The Red Devils (3-2) started their double weekend with a 53-37 loss to Silver Creek.
BEDFORD NL STARS (51)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
2 Chloe Spreen, f 1-3 3-11 6-8 8 3 13
22 Miley Sherrill, f 0-0 3-5 2-2 4 1 8
24 Madisyn Bailey, g 1-2 2-5 0-0 4 1 5
32 Trinidy Bailey, g 0-2 0-3 2-2 6 0 2
23 Katie Godlevske, g 4-10 5-13 0-0 3 3 14
20 Bella Jackson 0-0 1-4 1-2 8 0 3
12 Tori Nikirk 1-3 2-4 1-1 1 1 6
Totals 7-20 16-45 12-15 37 9 51
NORTH CENTRAL PANTHERS (39)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
21 Kaitlyn Hoff, f 0-1 3-8 5-7 6 4 11
33 McKenzi Rutland, f 0-0 2-2 0-0 0 2 4
30 Kristian Dinkins, g 0-3 1-7 0-0 4 5 2
11 Kaiden Kreinhagen, g 1-4 4-9 0-0 4 2 9
4 Gabrielle Burris, g 3-5 5-11 0-0 3 0 13
5 Macy Loy 0-0 0-1 0-0 0 2 0
24 Arianna Harrington 0-2 0-4 0-0 1 1 0
Totals 4-15 15-42 5-7 22 16 39
Bedford NL 5 13 20 13 – 51
North Central 11 5 14 9 – 39
Turnovers – BNL 16, North Central 16
Field goal percentage – BNL 16-45 (.356); North Central 15-42 (.357)
Free throw percentage – BNL 12-15 (.800); North Central 5-7 (.714)