By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – June basketball is a glimpse, a tease, a preview, a trailer dropped way in advance of the movie release. Sometimes the clips make no sense, revealing nothing about plot or substance.
But it sparks interest, creating a buzz. That’s what this month of off-season hoops was all about for Bedford North Lawrence as it starts the long process for scripting another blockbuster. The main characters must be developed, the supporting cast has to shine, the direction must cast the best light possible on the project.
The Stars capped their summer session with a 44-38 victory over Evansville North in the final scrimmage on Friday afternoon. BNL went 8-1 overall, and coach Jeff Allen was quick to point out – if this was mid-December rather than sun-tan season – how pleased he would be with that record.
Winning wasn’t the prime objective. Learning was the focus. What will the Stars look like, without Miss Basketball Jorie Allen as the human safety net? Who will assume the starring roles? What are the potential strengths and exposed weaknesses to address before winter and Hoosier Hysteria grips the kingdom?
The win over the Huskies, plus the previous 8 games, pinpointed possible answers.
“I’m as competitive as anybody, but I really don’t worry if I win or lose games in June,” Allen said. “But I want to see different kids involved and see what they can do.
“I really like this team. We’ll be able to apply pressure when we need to, we have a really good inside player. We have a lot of good options.”
Miss Inside will be Madison Webb, the 6-3 senior center who will command so much attention in the post. She scored 10 points against North, displaying a willingness to find open teammates when swarmed.
Another key piece will be junior Irye Gomez, a kid who has a unteachable knack of being in the right place, at the right time, to score. She totaled 20 points against North, including 11 during a second-quarter burst that got the Stars the lead. Can she do that every night during the regular season? Probably won’t have to. Again, it’s a glimpse.
BNL also has returning starters in junior shooter Chloe McKnight and senior point guard Gracie Crulo-Rood, so the first question now is the fifth spot and the rotations.
“We’ll see a lot of good things,” Crulo-Rood said. “A lot of teams expect we won’t be very good, but I think we’ll surprise some teams with what we have.”
Progress must be made in two areas. Rebounding is the most obvious. That was glaring in the Wednesday loss at Silver Creek, and noticeable again when North erased BNL’s 10-point lead in the second half and muscled to a 36-35 advantage with 4:14 left. The Stars recovered late with baskets from Webb and Gomez, plus free throws from freshman Karsyn Norman and Gomez to end the month on the positive. The other will be turnovers when trapped by taller opponents.
“Rebounding is an issue for us,” Allen said, blessed with a bundle of small guards after Webb is taken out of the equation. “We have to work harder at it, get better at it, and we will. We should be a better rebounding team than we are.
“And we’ve seen what style of basketball we will play. We’ll have to rely on our defense for some offense, that will be a priority for us. So it was successful. I’d like to think we got a little better.”
North, which went 13-12 and loss to regional champion Castle in the sectional final last season, has some firepower. Kenna Hisle had 14 points and Kaliah Neighbors totaled 11.
BNL got additional offense from Makena Moore (4 points), Norman (4) and McKnight (3) en route to the win.
“We learned a lot,” Crulo-Rood said. “It’s a lot different, not having Jorie and her scoring. But we definitely learned we’ll have to rebound, because there’s a lot of teams a lot taller than us. We don’t have much size. We’ll have to keep it together and play together as a team.”
Many summer days, and autumn nights, must pass before BNL makes its 2019-20 debut against Mooresville on Nov. 5. By that time, the roles will be more defined.
“They’ve shown they have great chemistry, which is important because there was some uncertainty as far as who would do what,” Allen said. “This group has great respect for each other.”