The glory days have returned to Bedford North Lawrence.
They had passed in the wink of a young girl’s eye. They have returned, thanks to some young girls who can shoot the eyes out.
The Stars (27-0), the No. 2 seed, will seek their third girls basketball state championship on Saturday night when they meet No. 11 Fort Wayne South (24-3) in the Class 4-A final at Terre Haute’s Hulman Center. BNL won its previous titles in 1983 and 1991.
For three seasons, the Stars were royalty in the basketball kingdom, making it to the championship game at Market Square Arena from 1990 to ’92. They boasted Mental Attitude Award winners each season. They were almost untouchable, setting a state record with 88 consecutive regular-season victories.
The dynasty eventually waned. Hall of Fame coach Pete Pritchett retired. The talent and skill level of the competition caught up while BNL’s dried up. The Stars became part of the rabble.
Kurt Godlevske took over as coach seven years ago and started the restoration. Talent arrived, including the daughter of Damon Bailey. Two key players moved into the school system.
The Stars are back, ready to add to the Pritchett legacy.
“He was the first person I sought out when I took the job,” Godlevske said. “I tried to pick his brain as much as I could (to) learn about what he thought his keys were. He built something that not many high school teams across the country had. For us to be back to that point is a huge stepping stone.”
The team’s core players are impressive — and underclassmen.
Sophomore Dominique McBryde, a 6-foot-2 forward, is the scoring leader at 14.5 points a game. Center Jenna Allen, a 6-3 sophomore, averages 14.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. Both shoot over 64 percent from the field.
On the perimeter, junior guard Brittani Rizzi, who has committed to the University of Evansville, leads the state with 82 3-pointers. She hit nine during the sectional win over New Albany. Sophomore guard Alexa Bailey (7.3 ppg) is the defensive stopper and junior guard Sammy Dillman directs the show.
Damon Bailey, the Indiana high school legend who set the state scoring record with 3,134 career points, now calls the offensive plays for BNL as Godlevske’s assistant.
Few teams have challenged the Stars. They had an overtime escape at Lawrence North during the regular season and rallied from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to conquer No. 5 Roncalli 66-52 in overtime in last week’s state semifinal. BNL ripped top-seeded Columbus North, last year’s state finalist, by 26 points in the regional.
The first-quarter numbers are particularly glaring: BNL is allowing an average of 7.4 points and only nine teams have reached double figures. The Stars are averaging 17.9 points and have trailed entering the second quarter only once .
“It’s a huge key for us,” Dillman said. “Once we get that fast start, we usually lean on that and keep that lead.”
Fort Wayne South can attest to the danger. The Archers fell behind 17-0 to the Stars on Jan. 26 at BNL Fieldhouse on the way to a 63-39 loss.
The BNL fans, renowned for their zeal — Indiana University tickets used to be exchanged for BNL tickets during the Bailey era — have returned. The regional at BNL was sold out. The IHSAA allowed BNL, announced as a semifinal site two years ago, to play at home and fans were turned away at the door when the fire marshal declared the venue had exceeded capacity.
BNL athletic director Jeff Callahan requested 900 additional tickets for the state final. Just like the glory days.
“There is pressure,” McBryde said. “We have to overcome that and show everyone we’re the best in the state.”