By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Towers of certain height require those red beacon strobe lights, high-intensity warnings for low-flying aircraft. The flash penetrates the night sky, a Simple Minds shout in the darkness: “Don’t you forget about me.”
Perhaps Bedford North Lawrence center Madison Webb should wear one of those during the regular season. It’s amazing how the tallest kid on the court can disappear, part of that being her natural disposition to blend in rather than stand out.
Then the light comes on during the postseason. That 6-foot-2 junior tower of reluctant power flares to the forefront, lighting the way for the Stars as they streak deep into the state tournament.
For the second straight year, Webb’s game has been brilliant in February. As a sophomore, she scored in double figures in four of the final five games, including a career-high 21 points in the regional and 20 in the semistate loss to eventual state champion Warren Central. This season, she’s hit double figures in 9 of the last 11 games, including all three sectional battles, and logged three double-doubles during that span.
She has saved her best for last, when BNL has needed it most. The quiet kid’s game is suddenly shouting. The quiet ones are usually the most dangerous.
“There’s a little more focus in tournament time,” Webb said. “Of course you’re trying to get ready for the tournament during the regular season, but everything gets kicked into gear when you realize it’s one-and-done.”
Actually, there’s more to the explanation of the late, great surge.
Part of the equation of patience, which BNL coach Jeff Allen has barked from the sideline quite often. Rather than launch one-pass, one-run-through-the-set 3-pointers, the Stars have been probing, selective, willing to explore all the options, multiple times if necessary. Webb has often been the third or fourth option, now she’s been upgraded.
Part of the equation is confidence. Last season, after recovering from a knee injury that cost her the entire freshman campaign, she needed time to reach full speed. This year, she suffered a scare during the North Central game, tweaking the same knee.
“Any time you have an injury, especially with big kids, it makes them more tentative,” Allen said. “As a big post player, taking time off really sets you back. Her game goes as her conditioning level gets better. It takes her some time to get in shape. When she does, she has the ability to be really good.
“And the other thing is confidence. As she plays during the season, her confidence gets better and better. She’s playing really well right now. If we can keep her moving the way she is, both offensively and defensively, it makes us a lot better.”
Webb, averaging 8.7 points and 7.0 rebounds overall this year, was a force in the three sectional games at New Albany, making an argument for a mythical MVP award with 40 points during the romp to BNL’s eighth consecutive title. The Stars emphasized the interior-first attack, and Webb was easily noticed by the guards running the show, by scoring leader Jorie Allen as she made opponents pay for constant double-teams with dump-down passes to the low post.
“We’ve played with each other so much, we’ve gotten really close,” Webb said. “We know where each other is on the floor.”
The final piece of the equation is aggression. Webb is not a type-A personality, and she admits that. Rather than flex some muscle in the paint, she would apologize for a collision. Rather than look to score over a smaller opponent, she would quickly give up the basketball.
“I don’t necessarily like to clobber people,” Webb said. “I’m not particularly aggressive. I never really have been. But this year it’s gotten better, going toward the basket instead of fading away. I’ve gotten more physical. It’s more of an instinct now.”
“Some kids come by that naturally, some don’t,” Allen said. “For her, if she can get it the point of understanding she has to play with a high motor and a lot of emotion, she’ll be hard to stop.”
That motor was almost turned off on Nov. 16, the fifth game of the year, a high-profile clash with North Central. Webb limped off the court early in that contest, tearful as she clutched the knee that forced her to sit out for so long. The pain was a jolt.
“I was really worried,” Webb said. “It didn’t feel the same as the first time, but I was worried because all the energy and effort it took to get back where I was, I thought of that immediately.”
After missing one game, after doctors found no structural damage, after the knee (and her psyche) felt better with a brace and some rehabilitation, Webb went back to work, quietly at first. Now she’s gotten loud, not only with her production but with her vocal leadership. When a teammate scores, she’s the first to shout their name.
“I like supporting my teammates,” Webb said. “I’m usully pretty quiet outside of basketball, but I think they deserve to hear something positive when they do something good.”
Her name has been screamed of late, and that makes BNL great.
“She’s a little too unselfish at times because she is a great teammate,” Allen said. “She doesn’t care who scores or gets the glory, she just wants to win. That’s pretty special in this day and age, kids that are just devoted to the team and want to win.
“She’s a great teammate. She understands her teammates need her to score, and there are certain times when she has success and that emotion comes out. That’s her getting to the next level of play, when she can tap into that full time.”
The Stars (22-5) will clash with No.8 Center Grove (22-3) in the opening game of the Class 4A regional at BNL on Saturday at 10 am., while No.9 Bloomington South (21-3) will meet Castle (21-4) in the second contest. The championship is set for that night at 7:30.