Dancing the night away, Stars celebrate 13th straight sectional title after beating the odds in final

BNL senior Chloe Spreen collects her prize after the Stars conquered Jennings County in the Class 4A sectional at Floyd Central. The Stars won their 13th straight sectional crown.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – When Jeff Allen lets his hair down, what little he allows to grow out or what little he has left after coaching unpredictable teens for 10 years, he dances in the moonlight on the Bedford courthouse square. Winning creates some humorous traditions, and the latest involves the Bedford North Lawrence team bus, after the acquisition of another postseason trophy, stopping in midtown for a celebratory team dance breakdown. Coach included.

Star Cruiser stop for Star hops. That’s probably as close to a dance move as he can muster. Allen has left his footprints all over the square – the one-way drive inside the square could be renamed Championship Boulevard after all the salutes to the Stars – and his fingerprints all over the sectional trophy that BNL owns in virtual perpetuity.

For the 13th consecutive year, the last 10 under Allen’s guidance, BNL brought home a Class 4A sectional championship, and this one ranks among the best of the 33 in program history. Cast as considerable underdogs, seeking revenge, down early to a powerful opponent, the Stars battled back against a lot of odds for a 43-39 win over No.5 Jennings County. That made the postgame party an extra-special occasion as BNL collected more pieces of net for its impressive collection.

For some Stars, this was the completion of a perfect four-year saga. BNL seniors Chloe Spreen, Madisyn Bailey, Haleigh Canada and Bella Jackson had never lost a sectional game, they have no idea (and never will) what it’s like to go home this early. And they weren’t about to let it happen. “Not on my watch,” Spreen said.

BNL’s Jeff Allen guided the Stars to another sectional title.

For others, this was the continuation of tradition. BNL junior Tori Nikirk and sophomore Trinidy Bailey were part of last year’s state championship, but not as starters, not with the heavy burden of responsibility and expectations they faced this time. The Stars have now won 39 straight sectional games, so they have added to the legacy.

“It feels amazing,” Nikirk said. “We were not favored, but coming out here and giving it our all, it puts us on top. We came back (from nine points down), and we won. We won! Unbelievable!”

And what about freshman Miley Sherrill? Welcome to the big time, kid. She watched BNL win a state title a year ago, stepped into the spotlight, and helped deliver the trophy. No pressure, huh?

“This is amazing,” Sherrill said amidst the swirl of hugs, pictures and glee on the court at Floyd Central. “I’ve dreamed of winning the sectional with these guys and Coach Allen since I can remember, looking up to the Lady Stars. Now it’s something I can do for other girls who are looking up to all of us.”

The path to this title was tougher with each step. The Stars started with a first-round 58-24 win over New Albany, setting the tone with a 25-0 run in the second quarter. That defensive mindset would come to the forefront a few nights later.

The semifinal was a next-level test. Silver Creek had pushed BNL during the regular-season meeting, and kept up that pressure during the first half of the rematch. Brooklynn Renn was remarkable with 20 first-half points as BNL escaped to the locker room with a 26-25 lead. In the second half, with Spreen playing a bigger defensive role, with huge contributions from Trinidy Bailey (a career-high 12 points), BNL pulled away to a 60-41 victory. The Stars gave up only 16 second-half points. Keep that in mind.

BNL sophomore Trinidy Bailey played a huge role in the sectional wins.

The final was storybook. Jennings, which had blasted BNL by 17 during the regular-season collision in early January, exploded to an 18-9 lead, and the streak was in jeopardy. It looked like all the predictions of a Jennings title were coming true. The Stars refused to accept that.

“There was no doubt in my mind we would win,” Sherrill said. “I kept telling everyone we were coming home with a trophy. I knew we had it. We took a rough beating from them the last time, I knew they couldn’t beat us two times in a row.”

“They couldn’t miss early, but there was never a moment where I thought we were out of this,” Trinidy Bailey said. “I knew we could come back, no matter how many threes they made.”

“We were still in the game, still fighting hard,” Nikirk said. “We were playing our game. That was a big thing. Everyone doubted us. But we weren’t letting them beat us twice.“

The second half will live in BNL lore, alongside other memorable moments. The Panthers were averaging over 60 points per game, but they were held to 10 in the final two quarters. Spreen, relentless in attacking, hit nine free throws. Madisyn Bailey, raising her game to clutch level, stroked a corner trey, and BNL never trailed again. Jennings scored only two points in the final three minutes, and that was a giveaway bucket with 2.9 seconds left.

If there was a MVP for the sectional, it was Bailey. She scored 54 points (including a career-high 24 in the final) in three games, hitting 19 of 29 shots (8 of 11 from deep) in that span. She was also the defensive force, holding Jennings star Juliann Woodard to 5 points. During the last seven games, since going 0-for-10 in the motivational loss at Jennings, Bailey has elevated to star status by averaging 17.5 points during that run.

Chloe Spreen absorbs contact while willing the Stars to a win over Jennings County in the final.

If there was a team commander, it was Spreen. She’s the Miss Basketball frontrunner who draws all the attention, the voice of leadership, a team captain who was in charge. She scored 56 points in the three sectional games and willed the Stars to victory.

If there were unsung heroes, they were everywhere. Trinidy Bailey, following up her semifinal story, didn’t launch a shot in the final. But her ballhandling was flawless, she drew a huge charge with 1:19 left as Jennings desperately looked for the lead. Sherrill had all eight of her rebounds in the second half. Jennings made a living on the offensive glass during its semifinal win over Jeffersonville. Not against BNL.

“I just knew we needed rebounds,” Sherrill said.

“Miley and Trinidy have grown up a lot,” Allen said. “They both did a great job.”

While Jennings, stunned by what transpired, broke down into tears as its dreams of a first sectional title since 2005 were dashed, BNL was the opposite on the emotional scale. While last year’s state championship was greater in importance, this win – proving doubters wrong – was its equal in satisfaction. “This,” said Madisyn Bailey, a girl of few words, “is right next to the state championship.”

Allen summed it up. “What an outstanding effort by my girls,” he said. Then he boarded the bus, headed for another late-night dance-a-thon on the square.

BNL’s next chance to dance will come on Saturday, when the Stars host No.2 Center Grove in the one-game regional.