Stars cap crash-course month of seismic shifts with 50-48 scrimmage loss to Evansville North

BNL’s Miley Sherrill works against against an Evansville North defender during Tuesday’s scrimmage at BNL Fieldhouse. Sherrill had 13 points, but the Stars suffered a 50-48 setback.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – When wise Yoda, the master of the Force and backward phrases, was instructing young Luke Skywalker on discovering his powers and potential, he implored his headstrong disciple to “unlearn what you have learned.” That phrase came to mind during Bedford North Lawrence’s summer-closing scrimmage.

So many things have changed for the Stars. New coach, different terminology, a seismic shift in roles, tempered expectations. June has been a crash summer-school course for the entire program, just a few weeks of a sneak peak into what awaits when the 2024-25 season arrives.

The Stars completed their team work during Tuesday night’s public scrimmage with Evansville North. The Huskies recorded a 50-48 triumph, although the final scoreboard score was not the final measurement for the Stars, who went 6-5 overall during their three weeks of intense training under first-year coach Greg Burton. This month was valuable and important as Burton introduced his system and started leaving his imprint on the historic and mega-successful program that’s now under his watch.

He’s got a lot of work ahead as he takes over for Jeff Allen at the helm. He’s got a new team that will miss a Miss Basketball and a second four-year star on the floor. He’s got one of the smallest rosters (in terms of height, not numbers) in memory. His first priority was getting a sample size of competition to gauge progress and pinpoint problem areas. Mission accomplished.

BNL’s Trinidy Bailey rises for a jumper. Bailey totaled 14 points.

“I thought we really improved,” Burton said. “I do a lot of the same stuff they’re used to, but the things I don’t, it’s drastically different. So it’s a big learning curve. The terminology is different, so they’re still adjusting. I’m still adjusting. But I’m very pleased with how we progressed.”

The scrimmage with the Huskies was a perfect laboratory. North went 16-11 and won a sectional title last season under Tyler Choate, and the Huskies have several returning from that squad. They had a size advantage (as will almost everyone) on BNL and took advantage of that experience and length to expose some weaknesses. North shot 25 free throws and made five treys. BNL exceeded the foul bonus limit in every quarter. Some turnovers were because of ball pressure, others because of inexperience.

Burton smiled when discussing that issue. He never called a foul during practice sessions in June, hoping to instill a physical aggressiveness. The Stars also practiced without air conditioning (as the school works on the system), so playing in the sauna conditions in a humid BNL Fieldhouse, even as a storm rolled past outside and thunder echoed, was nothing new.

“There is stuff we have to fix, but it’s all very fixable,” Burton said. “We want to go after people. We have to be able to play for 32 minutes, as hard as we can go.”

New BNL coach Greg Burton issues instructions during a timeout.

How is the transition going? BNL senior Trinity Schmeichel, one of five upperclassmen who will be on the roster in November, gave it a “thumbs up” review.

“We got a little taste of his coaching,” she said. “I think he’s a really good coach. Playing these games got us ready. There are differences. He keeps us energized, he wants us to play with a lot of energy, on the court or even when we’re on the bench. And he doesn’t want to see us frown.“

There were reasons to smile. Trinidy Bailey, one of the returning veterans, had 14 points while hitting three treys as she showed an immediate acceptance to become an aggressor on offense. Miley Sherrill, who comes back with the most minutes and points from a year ago, added 13 points, and Tori Nikirk added 9.

BNL had promising moments. Sherrill scored three times early, totaling 11 points in the first half. North created its first real edge, scoring five straight points at the line for a 33-29 lead late in the third quarter, and the Stars erased that in rapid-fire succession as Jordan Blann buried two bombs and Nikirk started the fourth quarter with another for a 9-0 burst to a 38-33 advantage that was BNL’s biggest.

BNL’s Jordan Blann fires from long range. Blann hit two treys late in the third quarter.

The Huskies responded with an 11-2 run for a 46-42 lead, although BNL answered that with a Bailey trey and Sherrill back-cut layup. North’s Azaria Finn then hit the biggest shot, a trey for a 49-47 edge. North’s Libby Blythe hit a free throw for the 50-48 difference with 12.4 seconds left. The Stars had time for the final possession, even though North had two fouls to give, but the best they could manage was a half-court heave that was harmless. Add execution, when there’s no Chloe Spreen and Madisyn Bailey to bail them out, to the to-do list.

“We are what we are,” Burton said. “All the kids are in major role changes. And they’ve answered that. They just need to continue to get better.”

Blythe had 16 points, Brooke Silva totaled 15 and Finn finished with 11 for North. The Stars were missing senior starter Katie Godlevske, who was absent with an illness.

Nobody remembers June outcomes, but success was important for this BNL edition. There will be more pressure when the first day of official practice arrives in October, and when the games officially count. “I’m not fired yet, am I?” Burton asked with a laugh. “I can’t wait. It’s fun to be in here.”

BNL’s Paige Burton attempts to block out a defender during a battle for a rebound.

Evansville North 50, BNL 48

Evansville North – Azaria Finn 11, Zhaeyana Cooper 2, Brooke Silva 15, Madelynn Walters 2, Libby Blythe 16, Maddie Knies 2

BNL – Trinity Schmeichel 1, Miley Sherrill 13, Tori Nikirk 9, Trinidy Bailey 14, Paige Burton 5, Jordan Blann 6

BNL’s Miley Sherrill and North’s Maddie Knies scramble for a rebound.