No.2 Trojans turn out BNL’s lights during 48-27 regional triumph

BNL’s Chloe Spreen attracts defensive attention during Saturday’s Class 4A regional clash with No.2 Center Grove. The Trojans claimed the title with a dominating 48-27 win.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – The offensive lights were turned off. The party’s over.

Like a groggy sleeper, groping for the switch in the middle of the night, Bedford North Lawrence vainly sought to flick on its attack. Just one bulb to illuminate the way, just a beam of hope in the darkness. The circuits never fired. Center Grove kept the Stars in the dark, until the void was permanent, casting BNL into season-ending oblivion.

The second-ranked Trojans shrouded BNL’s offense, with the Stars suffering through a virtual blackout, while recording a historic victory in the IHSAA’s one-game Class 4A regional on Saturday afternoon. Center Grove blanketed the Stars 48-27, advancing to the two-game semistate next week. The site and opponent will be announced on Sunday.

BNL’s defense of its state championship ended with little drama. The Trojans (26-1) erupted with a 12-0 run to start the second half, blasting to a 16-point lead, and the Stars (20-5) could not summon the energy for a heroic comeback. They never made enough shots to move the needle.

Center Grove’s gap-clogging defense proved impenetrable. Driving lanes vanished, jump shots were air balls. BNL hit only 9 of 39 shots (a boggling 23 percent) on its home floor while being held to a season low in production. It’s also the second-fewest points BNL has scored in its 206-game tournament history, barely topping the 23 points against Jeffersonville in the 2006 sectional opener. That’s not the way this team should be remembered, but the Trojans were that good on the defensive end.

“We just didn’t score the ball,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said. “If you had told me we would hold them to 48, I would have said we have a really good chance to win. We just couldn’t score. A lot of that is to them, some of it is to us. We looked a little tight offensively, but they’re really good on defense.

“We have to have kids make shots, and we struggled. You won’t beat a high-level team shooting the ball like that.”

Despite scoring only 9 points in the first half, the Stars were within striking range, down six at intermission. But that status changed during a three-minute burst. Center Grove started the third quarter with a set play for an Audrey Annee trey, which she buried. And that opened the floodgates. Ava Grant swished a corner bomb, Lilly Bischoff slashed the lane for a bucket, and Rachel Wirts capped the decisive surge with a layup for a 27-9 advantage.

The Stars could not, and would not, recover. Center Grove posted its first win over the Stars in BNL Fieldhouse, won its second straight regional title, and extended its impressive winning streak to 19 straight.

BNL’s Madisyn Bailey looks for an opening against Center Grove’s Audrey Annee. Bailey had 14 points.

“They’re a really good team,” Allen said. “They’ve shown those spurts all year.”

“They’ve done it all year, they’ve answered every call,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer as his team celebrated with the traditional net cutting. “The toughness on the floor, doing it together. That’s one of our goals, blocking out all the noise. When you can do that, you can take care of a lot of things.”

Center Grove found its groove. Bischoff scored 18 points, while 6-3 forward Rachel Wirts, a Villanova recruit, was a big key with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Grant added 10 points.

But the real key was on the other end. Madisyn Bailey scored 14 points, while Chloe Spreen was limited to 9 (less than half her average of 20.9). It’s the first time in 30 games BNL’s Miss Basketball candidate was held to single digits. Center Grove’s approach was obvious – keep someone in front of her, and have one (or two) more waiting when she attacked.

“She’s one of, if not the best, players in the state,” Stuckmeyer said. “She knows how to carry the weight. You really have to make her earn everything. We played a lot of players that are high-caliber, that can go score 40 on you. She’s just another.

“You can’t guard her with one person. It’s a team effort. It was our gap help, where she felt like a person, or two, or three, was guarding her at all times.”

BNL senior Chloe Spreen was limited to 9 points in her final game for the Stars.

BNL had no pressure release. The Stars were 2 of 21 from long range, and they went eight minutes (from Spreen’s 8-footer on the baseline midway through the second quarter until Bailey’s trey from the key to end the Center Grove run at the 4:19 mark of the third) between buckets. The frustration was palpable.

“Sure, that’s the way this game goes if the ball doesn’t go in the basket,” Allen said. “It makes it difficult. They did a good job of taking options away from us.“

Center Grove will now chase its first semistate title since 2006 (when it won the state championship). They did it by winning sectional and regional titles on the opponents’ home floor.

“You get into a regional game, at their place, you have to weather that storm,” Stuckmeyer said. “It was the nerves, getting used to it. We weren’t free flowing right away, but we were able to weather that. Our defense and toughness weathered that for us.”

BNL finished with its eighth straight 20-win season but fell short in the quest for its 15th regional title. The Stars are now 2-6 in regional finals on Damon Bailey Court.

“It’s a tough loss,” Allen said. “I hate ending the season this way, but unless you get to the final game and win it, like last year, eventually you will feel this way.

“It’s an unfortunate end to a great season for these kids, and four seniors. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”

Center Grove’s Rachel Wirts was a huge factor with 12 points and 14 rebounds.


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

2 Audrey Annee, f 1-4 2-5 1-2 0 3 6

33 Rachel Wirts, c 0-0 5-6 2-2 14 1 12

23 Ava Grant, g 2-7 4-11 0-0 1 0 10

32 Lilly Bischoff, g 0-3 6-10 6-6 6 2 18

3 Aubrie Booker, g 0-0 0-2 2-2 3 4 2

10 Hannah Gin 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 2 0

20 MacKenzie Pierce 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 0

11 Mia Mann 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

15 Prezley Martin 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

24 Emerson Vican 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 3-14 17-34 11-12 30 12 48


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

2 Chloe Spreen, f 0-6 4-17 1-2 4 3 9

22 Miley Sherrill, f 0-1 1-3 0-1 3 0 2

24 Madisyn Bailey, g 2-9 3-11 6-6 6 2 14

32 Trinidy Bailey, g 0-1 1-4 0-0 2 2 2

12 Tori Nikirk, g 0-4 0-4 0-0 2 4 0

20 Bella Jackson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

11 Haleigh Canada 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 2-21 9-39 7-9 17 11 27

Center Grove 9 6 19 14 – 48

Bedford NL 5 4 9 9 – 27

Turnovers – Center Grove 11, BNL 9

Field goal percentage – Center Grove 17-34 (.500); BNL 9-39 (.231)

Free throw percentage – Center Grove 11-12 (.917); BNL 7-9 (.778)


Lilly Bischoff, Center Grove

Rachel Wirts, Center Grove

Ava Grant, Center Grove

Madisyn Bailey, BNL

Chloe Spreen, BNL

BNL’s Madisyn Bailey drives against Center Grove’s Rachel Wirts. The Stars finished 20-5.