Stars resolve to generate more offense as they close calendar year with Evansville Central

BNL’s Miley Sherrill and the Stars will close the 2023 portion of the schedule when they host Evansville Central on Thursday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The origin of New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to ancient Babylon, over 4,000 years ago. The earliest breaking of those vows has been traced to exactly one week later.

As this calendar year winds down, with a new replacement about to dawn, Bedford North Lawrence has some greater intentions in mind. The Stars were extremely blessed in 2023, winning 26 of 28 games thus far, including the program’s fifth state championship. They will be pressed to better that, although each year has its own challenges.

BNL will close the Gregorian portion of the schedule with a late-afternoon clash with Evansville Central. The Bears (13-2) will be the perfect test to see if BNL (13-2 and ranked No.6 in Class 4A) will be resolute in its continued quest for self-improvement.

Out with the old, in with the new. The Stars have work to do.

“What I would like to see is for us to play two great halves of basketball back-to-back,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “I don’t know that we’ve done that a lot. We have moments in each game where we play well, and moments we have slippage. So I would like to see that consistency where we play at a high level for two halves.

“For us, it’s the offense. I feel pretty good about the defense, we’ve done a good job of making it difficult for people to score. We go through periods where we have a difficult time scoring. Whether they’re double-teaming Chloe (Spreen), or we’re turning it over, we can have a difficult time scoring. We’re going to focus on that, where we get a little more out of these kids.”

BNL’s Madisyn Bailey recorded a career-high 10 assists during the win over Noblesville.

Spreen, the Miss Basketball candidate who’s about to move into second place on the school’s elite career scoring list, leads the Stars at 20.6 points and rebounds at 7.2. The vow for more offense means additional output from Madisyn Bailey (9.9 points, 5.1 assists after dishing out a career-high 10 against Noblesville), freshman Miley Sherrill (9.7 points, 5.2 boards) and others in the seven-player rotation.

BNL could also make strides in shooting percentages (42 percent) and free-throw accuracy (65 percent). The Stars are averaging 54.3 points per game, although that total has dropped to 45.6 over the last five outings.

“We’re playing some good teams right now,” Allen said. “We will have to get going against Evansville Central.”

The Bears have claws. They broke onto the scene at the end of last year, going 12-11 in the regular season before winning the sectional title, and they return four starters from that surprise title run. Overlooked before, now Central carries expectations.

“We don’t get the Cinderella story we had last year,” Central coach Dave Alexander said. “The big stride was consistency. Last year, our potential was always there, and we showed it at the end of the year in the sectional and the first half against Bedford (in the one-game regional). We challenged them this year to be more consistent all the time. There is no night off or weak opponents. So far we’ve done that.”

Evansville Central sophomore Madalynn Shirley is averaging 19.1 points and 8.8 boards.

Central will feature sophomore center Madalynn Shirley, who’s totaling 19.1 points and 8.8 boards. She gets plenty of support from senior guard Mackenzie White (10.8 points) and junior guard Mya Skelton (10.0).

Shirley gave the Stars problems during their postseason battle last season, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The Stars countered with a sensational performance from Mallory Pride (20 points and 11 boards) and Spreen (18 points) as BNL rallied from an early 10-2 deficit to a 67-48 triumph.

“Shirley is very capable,” Allen said. “She has good ball skills, she’s one of the better young post players in Indiana. We’ll have to make it difficult for her, get a lot of help. They’re very good, their record shows that.”

Central owns an eight-game winning streak since a 68-48 loss at Castle.

“It’s a good measuring game to see where we are,” Alexander said. “They have a couple of new faces, but it’s the same BNL. One thing I’ve noticed this year is Chloe’s defense. Everyone knows the offensive game, her mid-range is one of the best in high school basketball, and she’s a willing passer. But the way she’s guarding is a concern. She flat-out gets after you. To be the offensive juggernaut she is, and still guard like that, is tough.

“They’re a tough matchup. We want to compete. Win or lose, you want to take things away from it that get you ready for the tournament.”

BNL’s Chloe Spreen had 18 points during last year’s regional win over the Bears.


When: Thursday, 6 p.m.

Records: Evansville Cental 13-2; BNL 13-2

Sagarin ratings: Evansville Central 83.65; BNL 92.36

Last meeting: Last year in the one-game regional at BNL, the Stars advanced with a 67-48 victory. Mallory Pride had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Stars, while Madalynn Shirley had 16 points and 11 boards for the Bears.

Previous game story: Late-starting Stars rally

Game notes: Evansville Central’s last win in the series was a 46-43 victory in the 2016 regional at Columbus North. BNL’s Chloe Spreen, now with 1,667 career points, needs six points to pass Dominique McBryde for second on the school’s scoring list.

BNL statistics

Evansville Central statistics

Starting lineups

Bedford NL Stars

F – Chloe Spreen 5-10 Sr.

F – Miley Sherrill 5-9 Fr.

G – Madisyn Bailey 5-9 Sr.

G – Trinidy Bailey 5-7 So.

G – Tori Nikirk 5-6 Jr.

Evansville Central Bears

F – Madalynn Shirley 6-1 So.

F – Mackenzie White 5-9 Sr.

G – Mya Skelton 5-6 Jr.

G – Lindsey Laine 5-7 Sr.

G – Avery Kelley 5-4 Jr.