At the end of an era, BNL will have to reload and rock on during uncertain 2024-25 campaign

BNL senior Chloe Spreen averaged 20.4 points as the Stars went 20-5 during the 2023-24 season.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Bedford North Lawrence basketball has reached the end of an era. Great changes are on the horizon, and for the first time in over a decade, the future is uncertain. Where do the Stars go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?

Know this. BNL will rock on. This latest season, coming off the ultimate success of a Class 4A state championship, proved just how self-sustaining and resilient the program has become over the last two decades. Lose a lot? Reload and rock on. The Stars will have to do that again, on several levels, for the 2024-25 campaign.

BNL, in the defense of that state title, finished the season with a 20-5 record and won its 13th consecutive sectional crown. After losing three starters from the title team, the Stars plugged those lineup holes and continued their success, thanks to two remarkable senior stars, the leadership of four upperclassmen, and the addition of younger talent that was prepared for the pressure and the spotlight.

The expectations of defending the crown were heavy. The Stars bore the weight. With one exception, it took a Top 10 team (Lawrence North, Lake Central, Jennings County and Center Grove) to stop them. Recording the eighth straight 20-win campaign was quite the accomplishment.

“That kind of pressure can derail you, if you don’t handle it,” BNL coach Jeff Allen said as he completed his final season. “The only time I felt like it was really a problem was after the Lawrence North game (a 62-36 loss in late November). The kids were disappointed and felt like they weren’t living up to expectations. I just told them that I wasn’t thinking about last year, I was thinking about this year and how good this team could be. Just work hard and be as good as we can be. I thought we started to get through that.”

The regular season became a proving ground, with improvement as the measuring device, with the postseason as the true test. Chloe Spreen, living up to her billing as a Miss Basketball frontrunner, and Madisyn Bailey, with a late-season surge, were the catalysts.

BNL senior Madisyn Bailey was a star in the sectional as the Stars won their 13th straight title.

“We were playing our best basketball in the sectional,” Allen said. “As a coach, that’s what you hope for. Madisyn and Chloe really led us well, willed us through a 20-5 year and the sectional championship. These young kids got better and better with the pressure, they seemed to relax more and played with a sense of calm. From the kids’ standpoint, we performed at the level where it’s hard to expect a lot more out of them. They did a great job.”

The sectional was the best of BNL basketball. The Stars started with the expected triumph over struggling New Albany (58-24) in the first round, then disposed of dangerous Silver Creek (60-41) in the semifinal. That set up a heated rematch with No.5 Jennings County in the final. The Panthers had pummeled BNL 58-41 during the January clash that powered JC to the Hoosier Hills Conference title. The Stars were labeled significant underdogs, which they took as an insult.

Jennings threatened to prove the predictions correct, shooting to a quick 18-9 lead. But from that point, the Stars relentlessly battled back. With Bailey scoring a career-high 24 points, with an amazing defensive effort that allowed only 10 points in the second half, BNL growled to a 43-39 win, extending the sectional winning streak to 39 consecutive games.

“I’ve had a lot of memorable moments, and that ranks up there with the best of them,” Allen said. “For us to come back, we just stuck with it and didn’t fold. You could just see the confidence growing as the game went on. I was so proud of those kids, so happy they were able to achieve that. And you could see it on their faces after we won that championship. They were overjoyed.”

BNL’s run ended with a 48-27 loss to No.2 Center Grove in the one-game regional, capping the careers of Spreen, Bailey, Bella Jackson and Haleigh Canada. That foursome will depart with a four-year record of 93-14. On the court, Spreen and Bailey will leave huge holes.

Spreen, on her way to Alabama, averaged 20.4 points and 6.9 rebounds, and she finished second on the school’s career scoring list with 1,869 points. Bailey, who will play for Marian University, was the silent assassin at 11.8 points, 3.9 boards and a team-best 4.2 assists while doubling as the designated defensive stopper.

Miley Sherrill will return as the leading scorer after averaging 9.0 points as a freshman.

“Chloe came in with huge expectations, which is a tough way to start a high school career,” Allen said. “For the most part, she succeeded and probably overachieved compared to what a lot of people thought she would do. That’s a credit to her and her work ethic. She’s really a talented kid.

“Madisyn continued to amaze me out on the floor. She doesn’t say a lot, but when she does you want to pay attention. She had a great mind for the game, and with her ability defensively, I think she’s one of the best defensive players I’ve ever coached. They really willed this team to a great record.”

Allen announced the end of his tenure as BNL coach. During his 10 seasons, BNL was fourth in the state in winning percentage (83.4) and third in total wins (226). His teams never lost a sectional game. As he steps down, BNL will begin its new era with several key questions to answer.

Once a new coach takes over, the rebuilding will revolve around freshman Miley Sherrill (9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds), junior Tori Nikirk (4.1 points) and sophomore Trinidy Bailey (3.2 points, 3.6 boards) as returning starters, with junior Katie Godlevske (2.4) looking to step up from her reserve role. The Stars will have to identify their best offensive threats, improve their shooting percentages, play defense like savages and look for help from the junior varsity or incoming freshmen. Roles will shift. Spreen and Bailey demanded a lot of attention.

“Those kids understand what’s required, and what has to be done, to be successful,” Allen said. “They know. There are kids with experience, which is a good nucleus to build around. The way they performed in the sectional, they gained a lot of confidence from that. Some of the younger kids coming in will have to lean on them. They’ll have to be very structured and disciplined, offensively and defensively. But they’re capable of doing that.”

The final mystery is BNL’s future sectional fate. The IHSAA is currently restructuring the class system, and the 4A field will be smaller, likely dictating 5-team sectional fields and new opponents. That will be announced in the coming weeks.

“With the restructuring, who knows about the sectional?” Allen said. “I don’t know if they will continue the streak, but I sure hope they do. They could be in a position to defend that title. They will expect to win.”

BNL’s Tori Nikirk will be one of three returning starters as the nucleus for the 2024-25 season.

Final BNL Statistics


1,930 – Jorie Allen (2019)

1,869 – Chloe Spreen (2024)

1,672 – Dominique McBryde (2015)

1,658 – Marla Inman (1992)

1,495 – Jenna Allen (2015)

1,329 – Karsyn Norman (2023)

1,208 – Chloe McKnight (2021)

1,180 – Tracey Sargent (1979)

1,138 – Brittani Rizzi (2014)

1,035 – Kristen Pritchett (1988)