BNL’s early advantage in HHC race to be tested at Jennings County

BNL coach Kurt Godlevske and the Stars will travel to Jennings County for a key HHC game on Saturday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The intriguing Hoosier Hills Conference race always seems a little chaotic, with upsets from unsuspected places, and the latest version is already unpredictable.

Guess which team is the only one without a conference loss? That’s right, Bedford North Lawrence has started the defense of its shared conference championship with a head start on the rest of the seven-team field. Granted, the Stars have played only one league opponent, but they’ve benefited as everyone else has absorbed an early setback.

Their lead will be challenged on Saturday night by one of the other co-champions. In fact, Jennings County earned the unrecognized and unofficial tiebreaker by winning the sectional title and beating both of the other titleholders (Jeffersonville) in the process.

BNL will visit Jennings for a key clash that will shape the rest of the race. While the Panthers (6-8 overall, 0-1 in the league) lost a significant chunk of their firepower – and even changed their head coach – from a year ago, they are quite dangerous. Ask 2A power Brownstown about that.

Jennings posted a signature comeback win last week against the Braves, rallying from 19 points down in the second half for a 69-61 home victory. Carter Kent, one of the holdovers from last season, scored 30 points and set the school record for career 3-pointers. That’s also a Jennings fingerprint. The Panthers can come back from almost any deficit (ask BNL about that) and will launch from long range.

“It’s a very similar style to last year,” BNL coach Kurt Godlevske said. “They play up-tempo. No one is afraid to shoot it. They’re very aggressive in attacking you defensively. Kent has grown into a really nice player. He’s very composed, doesn’t get sped up, creates a lot of things for his teammates.”

The new Jennings coach is familiar with the program. Rob Kent, a hero of the 1998 JC team that won a regional and an Indiana All-Star that same year, has been a background part of his alma mater for the last two decades. When coach Josh Land stepped aside to take an administrative position, Kent stepped into the limelight.

BNL’s Noah Godlevske will square off with Jennings star Carter Kent once again.

While his son, who’s averaging 23.1 points and 5.5 assists, is the obvious centerpiece, Kent had to fill graduation holes after six of the top eight from last year’s regional champions departed. Senior guard Cole Sigler (10.5) and 6-6 South Decatur transfer Dorian Hacker (8.1) have taken up some of the slack.

“We’re just inexperienced,” Kent said. “Last year we just had to manage, this year we have to coach. We’ve spent a lot of time on fundamentals. I knew there would be some trials and errors, but we’re moving in the right direction as far as competing and doing the right things.

“Beating Brownstown, to see them compete and find a way to win, was something we really needed.”

Jennings swept two games from BNL a year ago, and the latter was doubly painful. After posting a 51-40 win in the regular season, the Panthers rallied from seemingly insurmountable BNL leads for a stunning 72-71 victory in double overtime in the sectional opener. The Stars were up 12 in the fourth quarter, ahead by 9 with 2:12 left in regulation, up 9 with 2:21 to go in the second overtime. And could not close.

This BNL team (7-2 heading into the Friday night clash with Mitchell) is also quite different this season. Patric Matson leads the Stars in scoring at 19.4, while senior guard Noah Godlevske is totaling 18.0. If the Stars get locked in a shootout with JC, they have weapons.

“They’re starting to play up-tempo,” Kent said. “They’re taking shots they wouldn’t have taken in the past – not bad shots, just in previous years they would have held the ball a little longer to get another shot.”


When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: BNL 7-2 (at Mitchell on Friday), 1-0 in HHC; Jennings County 6-8, 0-1 in HHC

Sagarin ratings: BNL 81.89; Jennings County 76.59

Last meeting: Last year, the Panthers swept two games from the Stars, winning the regular-season game 51-40 and the sectional rematch 72-71 in double overtime.

Previous game story: Jennings rises from the doom

Game notes: Jennings County has won three straight in the series. First-year JC coach Rob Kent led the Panthers to a regional title as a player in 1998 and was named an Indiana All-Star after averaging 23.9 as a senior.

Starting lineups

Bedford NL Stars

F – Patric Matson 6-3 Jr.

F – Logan Miracle 6-4 Jr.

G – Maddox Ray 5-11 Sr.

G – Noah Godlevske 5-11 Sr.

G – Trace Rynders 5-11 Sr.

Jennings County Panthers

F – Dorian Hacker 6-6 Sr.

F – Austin Byford 6-5 Sr.

F – Ben Juraskovich 6-3 Jr.

G – Carter Kent 5-11 Jr.

G – Cole Sigler 5-9 Sr.