By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Bedford North Lawrence coach Jeff Allen, his mood much improved – which is a direct correlation to how his Stars played – and his disposition brighter, described his team as a “wounded bird.”
Birds are known to fake an injury, to draw a predator’s attention away from a hidden nest. After the shocking loss at Floyd Central, followed by Thursday night’s conquest of North Harrison (which was as impressive as the Floyd loss was stunning), perhaps that’s an accurate description.
Time to find out, which BNL team is the one to believe.
The Class 4A No.9 Stars (16-5) will look for their first back-to-back wins in a month when they visit Evansville Mater Dei on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats (10-9) have won two straight following Thursday’s 65-41 victory over Evansville Central, and they’re using this test as a tournament preview.
The Stars should view it that way as well. With the postseason only 10 days (and three games) away, they need to make the final push. Time to fly. “Maybe we gave everyone the wounded bird,” Allen said. “Now we’ll go on a roll.”
The Wildcats have played too much like the first half of their nickname. They were guilty of 31 turnovers during last year’s loss at BNL, and they had 32 miscues during a 54-32 setback to Evansville Memorial last week.
“ I wish we were better in that area,” Mater Dei coach Chad Breeden said. “We are not. We have a tendency to turn the ball over. Sometimes when you run a lot, you’ll have more turnovers.”
Mater Dei will feature senior forward Jossie Hudson, a University of Evansville recruit who’s averaging 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds. Senior guard Hannah Winiger contributes 11.0 points. The Wildcats also got a midseason boost when 6-0 sophomore post player Mariah Dickerson returned from an ACL knee injury to play in 7 of the last 8 games.
“When we look at playing BNL, my concern is more on my team,” Breeden said. “The reason to schedule them is to be prepare for the 2A tournament. There’s no better way to do that than playing a perennial power. It’s best to schedule games that challenge us and show us where we need to be.”
Where does BNL need to be? Focused. That might have been an excuse for the Floyd disaster, and that was certainly an obvious improvement during the dominating triumph over North Harrison.
“We didn’t play as a team, we didn’t play defense either,” sophomore Chloe McKnight said of the embarrassing loss to the Highlanders. “Tonight we passed the ball well and made shots.”
“We told ourselves it was a down game,” Jorie Allen added. “And we’re going to get to the point we need to be.”
BNL’s defense will be the key to go anyplace. The Stars have surrendered over 40 points only once in the last five games. North Harrison shot only 24 percent.
“That’s the best we’ve been defensively in the last few games,” Jeff Allen said. “It’s a focus and an intensity. How many 50-50 balls did we come up with? That’s the key right there, you feel like you’re playing the way you need to play.”
So which BNL team shows up? “I know which one I’m going to vote for,” Allen said.
The Stars won last year’s clash with Mater Dei 61-33 as Allen scored 16 points, Jacy Hughes added 11 and McKenzie Messmore added 10. Hudson paced the Wildcats with 14 points.
BNL at EVANSVILLE MATER DEI
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 16-5, ranked No.9 in Class 4A; Mater Dei 10-9
Sagarin ratings: BNL 91.19; Mater Dei 64.26
Last meeting: Last year at BNL, the Stars rolled to a 61-33 victory. Jorie Allen had 16 points for BNL, and the Wildcats were guilty of 31 turnovers. Jossie Hudson had 14 points for Mater Dei.
Game notes: BNL hasn’t won back-to-back games since Dec. 18, when it conquered Bloomington North for its eighth straight victory. The Stars will learn their postseason fate when the IHSAA announces the state tournament pairings on Sunday afternoon.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Jorie Allen 6-1 Sr.
C – Madison Webb 6-2 Jr.
G – Chloe McKnight 5-8 So.
G – Jacy Hughes 5-5 Sr.
G – Gracie Crulo-Rood 5-5 Jr.
Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats
F – Jossie Hudson 6-1 Sr.
F – Olivia Effinger 5-9 Sr.
C – Kelsey Carr 5-11 Sr.
G – Hannah Winiger 5-4 Sr.
G – Alaina Spahn 5-5 Sr.