A season to be proud of: Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball stands tall in 2021-22

·9 min read

BEDFORD — There are many tangible ways to quantify the success of the 2021-22 Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball season.

There's the 24-3 record, which ranks among the all-time best in a program that is stocked with four state championships, eight Final Four appearances, six semi-state titles (fourth best in the state), 13 regional crowns (tied for first in the state with Ben Davis) and 31 sectional championships (No.2 behind Rushville's 33).

BNL 5-9 senior Carlee Kern (right) defends Jennings County 6-0 star Juliann Woodard during the regular-season duel at North Vernon. Kern limited Woodard to eight points in a 50-34 win.
BNL 5-9 senior Carlee Kern (right) defends Jennings County 6-0 star Juliann Woodard during the regular-season duel at North Vernon. Kern limited Woodard to eight points in a 50-34 win.

That includes winning the last 11 Sectional 15 championships in a row, the previous four with seniors Carlee Kern, Ella Turner and Hadley Teague on board.

This year's team spent a stretch ranked as the No.1 team in the state in Class 4A in both the ICGSA and IBCA polls, and was never out of the top five. The Lady Stars played against the 21st-toughest schedule in the state and defeated 10 teams that were ranked at one time or another, including two that are playing for state championships this weekend.

BNL junior point guard Karsyn Norman drives past Noblesville's Kaitlyn Shoemaker in a late-December duel of top-five teams. Norman scored 17 points in a 59-40 victory.
BNL junior point guard Karsyn Norman drives past Noblesville's Kaitlyn Shoemaker in a late-December duel of top-five teams. Norman scored 17 points in a 59-40 victory.

BNL allowed a mere 37.2 ppg and had average winning margin of 17, while placing three guards, junior Karsyn Norman (first team), sophomore Chloe Spreen (first team) and sophomore Madisyn Bailey (honorable mention) on the All-Hoosier Hills Conference team.

A better measure of success

Head coach Jeff Allen is now 179-37 (.829 winning percentage) in eight seasons. While he appreciates the mind-numbing numbers, he looks far beyond digits to measure a team's success.

Bedford North Lawrence's Chloe Spreen, center, is congratulated by Karsyn Norman (21), and Mallory Pride (22) after making a key defensive stop on Jennings County's Juliann Woodward with several seconds left in the fourh qaurter. The play iced the sectional championship for BNL, who won 38-36.
Bedford North Lawrence's Chloe Spreen, center, is congratulated by Karsyn Norman (21), and Mallory Pride (22) after making a key defensive stop on Jennings County's Juliann Woodward with several seconds left in the fourh qaurter. The play iced the sectional championship for BNL, who won 38-36.

He watches the players rush together to celebrate a big play on the court, he listens to the singing and laughing on bus rides, he digs the dancing on the town square — indeed often gets in the middle of it — after sectional championships.

And yes, he sees the tears of sorrow and disappointment after tournament defeats, the droplets that show how deeply his players care. One suspects, at some point perhaps out of sight, he gets in the middle of that, too.

Bedford North Lawrence's Karsyn Norman (21) and Carlee Kern (back) feels the pain following BNL's regional championship loss to Franklin on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
Bedford North Lawrence's Karsyn Norman (21) and Carlee Kern (back) feels the pain following BNL's regional championship loss to Franklin on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

"It's always tough when it comes to an end," Allen said after his third-ranked team fell to No.2 Franklin, 58-52, in the Columbus North Regional championship game. "These are great kids and they're really special to me. They're like daughters to me, so it's hard.

"But those three seniors are going to do great things with their lives, and we have a great nucleus of kids back next season."

Bedford North Lawrence's Madisyn Bailey (32) drives to the basket during the IHSAA regional basketball game against Franklin Community on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
Bedford North Lawrence's Madisyn Bailey (32) drives to the basket during the IHSAA regional basketball game against Franklin Community on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Allen and his overachievers

The coach feels this squad exceeded expectations after losing three starters who went on to play college ball off a 22-3 team in 2020-21. The Lady Stars were vastly undersized in most matchups, but battled through with a merciless defense, mental toughness and the offensive exploits of Spreen (16.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 77 percent from the line), Norman (15 ppg, 3 spg, 2.8 apg, 3.8 rpg, 58 3-pointers) and Bailey (7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3 spg)

Bedford North Lawrence's Chloe Spreen (2) shoots over Castle defender Natalie Niehaus (32) during the first round of the IHSAA regional tournament on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
Bedford North Lawrence's Chloe Spreen (2) shoots over Castle defender Natalie Niehaus (32) during the first round of the IHSAA regional tournament on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Junior forward Mallory Pride (6.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Kern (5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 20 3-pointers) backed them nicely, while Turner was a valuable sixth player. Teague and junior Emma Crane also had some big moments.

"I thought this group outperformed what I expected from them, especially after losing Emma Brown in preseason (to a torn ACL; she is back running now)," Allen said. "I don't honestly think a lot of people expected us to be 24-3, but the kids didn't worry about any of that.

"They just played their hearts out and put us in position to win every single game we played. As a coach that's all you can ask of players."

BNL junior Karsyn Norman outduels Floyd Central's Keegan Kaiser for a loose ball during the Jeffersonville Sectional semifinal. Norman had 14 points and six steals in a 61-16 semifinal victory.
BNL junior Karsyn Norman outduels Floyd Central's Keegan Kaiser for a loose ball during the Jeffersonville Sectional semifinal. Norman had 14 points and six steals in a 61-16 semifinal victory.

BNL effort impresses all

Allen said his team's all-out effort wowed even the enemy.

"What I really loved and appreciated is how they played," he said. "They played so hard and it was noticed. I had numerous coaches and fans of opposing teams come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed watching our kids play because they played so hard, fundamentally well, and never complained to an official and played with class. They saw how we were unselfish and shared the ball so well.

"These kids truly loved and cared about each other. They played for each other and not themselves, and when you have that and mix in a little talent with it you have the ingredients to have a great deal of success.

BNL senior Carlee Kern sinks a floater in the lane against Mitchell.
BNL senior Carlee Kern sinks a floater in the lane against Mitchell.

"I'm so proud of our kids for the season they had, and I want to say just what a great senior season Carlee Kern. She stepped in and did everything we asked of her and more. She played great defense, rebounded and really picked up her shooting. She's a wonderful kid with a great attitude."

Future figures to fulfill

Needless to say, the outlook for the 2022-23 season is grand, so the future figures to be filled with fury and fun as the Lady Stars try to complete the mission and get back to the state championship game.

BNL's Karsyn Norman brings the ball up under pressure from Jeffersonville's La'Kyra Johnson Saturday night at BNL Fieldhouse.
BNL's Karsyn Norman brings the ball up under pressure from Jeffersonville's La'Kyra Johnson Saturday night at BNL Fieldhouse.

"I think the loss to Franklin came down to depth and fatigue," Allen noted. "We were right there, and we had some missed shots and free throws down the stretch that hurt us, and that's usually a sign of fatigue.

"It's tough at the regional level playing two games in one day, especially with how difficult this regional was, and we weren't quite as deep as Franklin this year. But their two best players were seniors and my two best players were a junior and sophomore, so we're really looking forward to next season."

Bedford North Lawrence's Ella Turner (31) is fouled on the shot by a Jeffersonville defender during sectional action.
Bedford North Lawrence's Ella Turner (31) is fouled on the shot by a Jeffersonville defender during sectional action.

Players taking it to next level

It will be the final season for the incredible Norman, who scored 26 points in the final game of the season and should have assured herself a spot on the Indiana Junior All-Star team. And as impressive as Spreen has been in her first two seasons, Allen sees a bolt of improvement for her as she becomes an upperclassmen.

Bedford North Lawrence sophomore Chloe Spreen whips a pass past Martinsville's Ryan Owens in the final regular-season game. Spreen scored 22 points in a 66-33 win.
Bedford North Lawrence sophomore Chloe Spreen whips a pass past Martinsville's Ryan Owens in the final regular-season game. Spreen scored 22 points in a 66-33 win.

Ditto for Bailey and Pride as BNL returns four starters, and will once again have Brown, a quick, tenacious guard. Allen also sees some strong kids rising through the ranks.

"Losing Emma was tough on us," he acknowledged. "It really altered our rotations defensively. Ella came in and played hard and did some good things, but she's 6-1 so you can't insert her into a guard rotation ask her to defend a guard. Emma also did good things, but she's another big. So it affected how much rest we could get our backcourt kids, and that changes how you do things at both ends.

BNL sophomore Madisyn Bailey drives on Bloomington North's Emma McDivitt Friday. Bailey had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 7 steals in a 66-58 victory.
BNL sophomore Madisyn Bailey drives on Bloomington North's Emma McDivitt Friday. Bailey had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 7 steals in a 66-58 victory.

"I think that will be better next season. Karsyn had an incredible junior season and raised the level of her game so much. If she isn't a Junior All-Star then I just don't know what I'm doing because she earned it.

"I think Chloe will take the same leap as a junior that Karsyn did this year, and she is going to be amazing next season. Madisyn kept getting better and better as the season went along, and Mallory also took that big leap between her sophomore and junior years and just did an amazing job for us.

BNL's Mallory Pride goes up against South's Arissa North in girls basketball action Tuesday night at BNL.
BNL's Mallory Pride goes up against South's Arissa North in girls basketball action Tuesday night at BNL.

"Then you add Emma back into the mix, along with a couple of JV kids like Tori Nikirk and Bella Jackson, who I expect to bring their games up to the next level. And we have a really nice incoming freshman class with some kids who we think can contribute right away.

"So we'll be deeper next season, and that's one of the big pieces that we need."

A season to remember

Playing girls basketball at Bedford North Lawrence isn't easy, not for the weak of mind, heart or body. The program competes at the utmost level and plays for the highest stakes.

Those who earn the honor of wearing that uniform and come through the four years leave with some of the best basketball memories a school and team can produce. This one ranks well up on a long, special list.

"It's always a little sad when you don't win your last game, but I'm really happy for these kids because of who they are as young women, and how they play the game," Allen praised. "It was just a special season, so memorable for so many reasons and mostly because of how hard these girls worked and how well they performed.

The Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball team enjoys the moment after winning the sectional championship on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
The Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball team enjoys the moment after winning the sectional championship on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.

"There were moments of greatness (a 19-point win over current 4A No.1 Noblesville, for example) and it was really enjoyable for me and my staff (Chase Spreen, Mandy Harrell, Brett Holtz, D.J. Horton), who just worked their tails off to help these kids improve.

"We had great seasons from a lot of kids, but it was not only the starters, but the bench kids were so supportive, stayed ready, and they worked extremely hard in practice.

"The thing I'll always take away is how others viewed the kids. As a head coach, it gives me an incredible thrill to hear so many people come up and tell me how much they enjoyed watching my team play because of their effort, skill and sportsmanship. They told me they enjoyed watching them because they played the game the right way, and that is a great compliment to the kids, the parents, the community and the program."

2021-22 Bedford NL Girls Basketball

Season Results

Nov. 5 at Mooresville W, 47-44

Nov. 9 at Bloomington North W, 66-28

Nov. 13 Mitchell W, 68-27

Nov. 16 Bloomington South W, 57-22

Nov. 19 at North Central (Indianapolis) W, 54-51

Nov. 20 Jeffersonville W, 53-31

Nov. 2 7Fremd (Ill.) L, 41-40

Nov. 30 at Jennings County W, 50-34

Dec. 4 at New Albany W, 58-45

Dec. 9 at Seymour W, 64-26

Dec. 11 Brownsburg W, 44-32

Dec. 16 Silver Creek W, 49-42

Dec. 18 Evansville Mater Dei W, 56-36

Dec. 22 East Central W, 47-40

Dec. 22Noblesville W, 59-40

Dec. 29 Warren Central W, 54-43

Jan. 8 at Castle W, 47-43

Jan. 11 Columbus East L, 58-51

Jan. 15 Floyd Central W, 62-28

Jan. 22 Jasper W, 60-31

Jan. 25 Salem W, 57-34

Jan. 27 at Martinsville W, 66-33

Jeffersonville Sectional

Feb. 1 at Jeffersonville W, 51-42

Feb. 7 Floyd Central W, 61-16

Feb. 8 Jennings County W, 38-36

Columbus North Regional

Feb. 12 Castle W, 53-44

Feb. 12 Franklin L, 58-52

Contact Times-Mail Sports Writer Jeff Bartlett at jeffb@tmnews.com, or on Twitter @jeffbtmnews.

This article originally appeared on The Times-Mail: Season to be proud of: Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball shines