By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – With the last seconds of her high school basketball career about to unfold, with the outcome out of her control and the finality of the moment suddenly obvious, Jorie Allen walked to the Bedford North Lawrence bench, where her father waited.
Jeff Allen wanted to give his daughter a hug, a farewell embrace she deserved. He had done the same four years earlier, when Jenna met her dad at the conclusion of the regional final against Columbus North and melted into sobs. Jeff had to hold her, console her, lead her to the seat as the emotions flooded out.
Jorie, on the other hand, was about as huggable as a snarling porcupine. Her face, void of tears, was clouded by anger, by sheer disgust. “I,” Jorie admitted, “am a sore loser. Always have been. I hate losing more than I love winning.”
The kid most likely to slam pieces and scatter the board after a family game finally allowed Jeff’s arms around her. She is, after all, her father’s daughter in many respects, a fierce competitor chief among the common traits.
That drive, that burning desire, carried Jorie through four years of great expectations, of pressure to follow in famous footsteps, of fantastic thrills and heart-wrenching losses. Most athletes would have been bothered by the constant examination. Jorie thrived.
She finished as the leading scorer in school history, a remarkable accomplishment considering the greats who came before her. While whittling the wonderful list of outstanding players in BNL history down to four for a mythical “Mt. Rushmore” for the program might be unfair and impossible, if Allen wins the Miss Basketball award in April, she would have to be included.
She doesn’t care about the individual achievements.
“As a player, I don’t worry about it,” Jorie said. “Everyone has an opinion. I want to be remembered for playing hard every game, and that I was a good teammate. When fans come up and say they like how I played, that’s how I want to be remembered, as a kid who worked hard and had a lot of fun.
“It’s high school basketball. It was so fun. There were tough times, but I enjoyed every part of it. I just loved playing basketball. Any time you do the thing you love, you can thrive in that.”
From the moment she donned the BNL uniform, taking the floor for the first time against Mooresville (and losing, by the way), until she walked away in the 110th game, Jorie was invariably compared to her sister. That’s just natural. In reality, their games were almost as different as their personalities. Jenna is the pure post player, powerful around the basket, the school’s career rebounding leader who later added a perimeter jumper at Michigan State. Jorie is more athletic, quicker, a power forward able to attack the rim on the dribble.
“She handled that pressure and situation,” Jeff Allen said. “It was a really difficult thing to do. It put her in a tough position, and she handled it with grace and has always been a good teammate.
“She’s had the personality where the pressure never bothered her. She was more focused on what to do for the team to be successful. She carried herself well, especially with teams focused on stopping her. That goes to her character. Kids like Jackie Young, like Brayton Bailey, they have the skill level, but they’re more focused on the team. I think Jorie did a great job of that her entire career.”
That freshman stepped into the glare of the spotlight and never blinked.
“Was I nervous? Of course,” Jorie said. “Was I scared? No. I was confident in my ability, and I knew my dad, the coaching staff and my teammates would be there. I wasn’t going to do it by myself. I was excited for the opportunity.
“I grew up watching Jenna, Dom (McBryde) and Alexa (Bailey). I wanted to be a part of that. It was something special, high school basketball at BNL. That’s what I worked for.”
For the first time in eight years, Jeff will fill out a BNL lineup card without an Allen. He was the head coach for the last five.
“Jenna has always been more emotional,” Jeff said. “Jorie is more like me, more competitive and tougher-nosed, angry when it comes to losing. That competitive drive is what kept her going.
“Coaching my daughter, it’s easier said than done. There’s a lot that goes into it. You don’t really understand it until you start doing it, things you do wrong that you have to understand you did wrong and change it. I think I‘ve gotten better along the way.
“It will be different not having one of them on the team. In some ways, it might make me a better coach. When I have all those kids out there, they’re all my daughters. I consider myself fortunate to have the type of kids I feel that way about. It’s created memories for me for a lifetime.”
The only memorie Jorie didn’t get to enjoy was a journey to the state finals. Now she must look forward to the Indiana All-Stars, whatever number she wears, and get ready to report to Indiana University in June.
“There’s very few people who can say they won the state, compared to how many have played,” Jorie said. “What are you going to do? I made peace with that. You just have to look at the good.
“All I can do is smile. I guess that’s a good thing.”