Indiana Juniors absorb early explosion, rally late to stun Seniors 83-80

KOKOMO – Indiana Miss Basketball Chloe Spreen drives to the basket during the exhibition clash with the Junior All-Stars. Spreen had 15 points, but the Juniors rallied for an 83-80 win on Wednesday night.

By Justin Sokeland

KOKOMO – After the most explosive of starts, Indiana’s stunned All-Stars fizzled to a dud finish. No bang, no victory fireworks, just a frustrating loss in the public exhibition for the weekend’s home-and-home series with the southern rivals.

For only the 12th time in the 53-game series, Indiana’s Junior All-Stars shocked the Seniors. The final was not the troubling part, it was the way it unfolded as the Seniors frittered away an 23-point lead, went scoreless during the final 90 seconds and suffered a humiliating 83-80 loss on Wednesday night in the Memorial Gymnasium sweatbox. The ancient, venerable, historic arena was dedicated (1949) long before air conditioning became a required fixture, and the Seniors could have used a draft to cool off their heated underclass rivals.

Instead, the Juniors threw some cold water on the celebrated, showcased Seniors. Live and learn. Indiana now has motivation for the renewal of the series with Kentucky, which will begin in Lexington on Friday.

Chloe Spreen, the third Miss Basketball in Bedford North Lawrence history, acquitted herself and her station with 15 points and 5 rebounds, and Jennings County star Juliann Woodard (on her way to Michigan State) was deadly from distance with 22 points (with four treys) and 17 rebounds. But the Juniors countered with 22 points from Noblesville’s Meredith Tippner, a late surge that erased a 75-66 deficit, and the shutout during the final 90 seconds.

KOKOMO – Indiana’s Talia Harris knocks the ball away from Junior star Vanessa Wimberly.

The Seniors certainly had chances. After Tippner converted a free throw for an 80-80 deadlock with 1:15 left, the Seniors missed two open looks. Maya Makalusky added a free throw for the lead with 28.4 seconds left, and Spreen couldn’t cash in a bothered baseline shot. Jaylah Lampley made another free throw at 18.1, and Woodard missed from close range to end the drama.

“We had a lot of good opportunities,” Seniors coach Andy Maguire said. “We got the ball where we wanted it. It just didn’t go in the basket.”

Nothing went right for the Juniors during the first 10 minutes. Head coach Kaley May, who guided the Juniors to a win over Kentucky in the Junior contest on Sunday, quickly calculated her squad was “2 for 100” during that span. That was a little exaggerated (it was 3 for 29 in the first period), but not much. The Seniors went on an 18-0 run to 24-4 advantage, Talia Harris slashed to a 3-point play to close the quarter, and Spreen drove in the lane for one of her pet left-handed drives and a 29-6 lead to start the second.

Then nothing went right. Too much, too soon? They got it all so easily.

KOKOMO – Senior All-Star Jordyn Poole, a Purdue recruit, had 16 points and 8 assists.

“They missed shots early,” Maguire said. “They missed shots and made us look better than we were. Our effort was really good, we just went through stretches after that.”

The Senior lead shriveled to single digits late in the second quarter, and it was 41-35 at half. The Juniors pulled even at 58-58 in the third, but a Senior flurry (Woodard’s layup on a pass from Jordyn Poole, Woodard’s fade in the lane, Woodward’s trey via a Spreen dish) created the 75-66 lead that was squandered.

“As a team, we played hard,” Spreen said. “We have a lot of talented players. We need to put it all together, and put it together in the right way, learn how to play with each other.”

Poole had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists for the Seniors. Lampley had 15 points and Makalusky added 14 (plus 12 boards) for the Juniors. The Junior comeback was remarkable, set up by the success against Kentucky (a 111-76 victory in Scottsburg).

“It was just the energy level,” May said. “I kept telling them the shots would fall, we just had to pick up the energy on the defensive end. Knowing what our core kids were good at, knowing the skill set they had, was beneficial.”

Indiana’s elder class must now regroup for the first clash with Kentucky at Lexington Christian. The rematch will be on Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

KOKOMO – Juliann Woodard paced the Seniors with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

“I think we’ll be good,” said Spreen, who’s been in whirlwind mode since reporting to Alabama last week for the first workouts of her college career. “Obviously we weren’t happy with the loss, but we’ll bring it back

“You could tell they had played together more than us. They’re a great team, I don’t think they’re better than us. I think we have to learn from this.”

Maguire viewed the loss as a tough practice. Counting this contest, it was only the second one since the All-Stars convened to start working toward the Kentucky series.

“This was just a really hard practice to get ready for Friday and Saturday,” he said. “One of the big advantages they had was they had played already. And they had already won. This was our first time on the floor together. Based on what I’ve seen from these girls, we’ll be fine.”

In the boys game, the Seniors posted a 104-96 victory. Mr. Basketball Flory Bidunga, a Kansas recruit playing on his home floor, scored 34 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. Brownstown star Jack Benter, on his way to Purdue, added 19 points.

Heritage Hills’ Trent Sisley paced the Juniors with 18 points.

KOKOMO – BNL’s Chloe Spreen will look to point the All-Stars to a win over Kentucky on Friday.