By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Jorie Allen’s cell phone went virtually silent. The constant calls, the testy texts, the social media messages that “blow up” a phone, slowed to a trickle. Allen could finally look up from the addictive screen and see the future.
When Allen announced her verbal commitment to Indiana University last November, taking her name off the board for college recruiters and coaches, her world shifted. Once the hunted, she could now focus on her prey – a Class 4A state championship.
Bedford North Lawrence came within one game of the grand prize last season. If the Stars return to glory, Allen will take them there. The Miss Basketball and All-State candidate will be in the spotlight, a position she’s accustomed to after enduring almost three years of recruiting attention.
Allen averaged 17.1 points and 8.0 rebounds last year, powering BNL through a 23-5 campaign that ended with a loss to eventual state champion Warren Central in the semistate. She will take center stage, surrounded by talent on all sides, as the Stars chase another title.
Allen, a four-year starter, has totaled 1,358 career points, which puts her on pace to break Dominique McBryde’s school record of 1,672. But that pales in comparison to the real goal. Allen watched her sister Jenna combine with McBryde to win two state titles. This is Jorie’s final shot. Don’t think that’s not first on the priority list.
The college decision relieved some of the pressure. The rest is self-inflicted. Allen is ready.
”I don’t have to answer the calls or texts any more,” she said. “It was a major decision in my life. Now that it’s done, and I’m so confident in my decision, I can focus on getting myself better instead of worrying about who’s watching me or what people think.”
Allen is shouldering more responsibilty. BNL lost two senior starters from last season, and somebody has to accept the leadership roles vacated by McKenzie Messmore and Allie Crulo-Rood. Allen raised her hand. So did senior guard Jacy Hughes, and they should have. Team chemistry was a key component last year.
”We just have to step up,” Allen said. “I have to step up and take personal responsibility. We have younger kids who can fill roles. We have a lot of pieces, a lot of talent.”
Allen will not be alone. Junior center Madison Webb, BNL’s most improved player late last season, averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds. Sophomore deluxe shooter Chloe McKnight averaged 8.0 points, while Hughes contributed 7.4 points and 2.9 assists. That’s great balance.
”I just rely on my teammates to be there for me,” Allen said. “If I’m having a bad game, the shots aren’t falling, I rely on them to encourage me to keep going. That’s how it’s always been. I’ve focused on turning my weaknesses into strengths, so people can’t focus on me just driving the basketball.”
Allen, projected to be a wing player for the Hoosiers, has worked on her perimeter skills, on her jump shot, on her free throws. Webb improved her post skills and her confidence, Hughes developed her left hand and her floor generalship, McKnight sharpened that shooting touch while recovering from knee surgery. “Doing the little things,” Allen said. “Put the time in to get better and make that final game.”
BNL coach Jeff Allen, starting his fifth season, has won four sectional championships and one regional. He wants this team to aim for the top.
“The kids expect to win, feel pressure to win,” he said. “It will revolve how some of the other kids fill in the gaps. Those seniors (last year) played important roles, both in ball handling and execution, and defensively. If we can fill those gaps, we can be as good or better this year.”
One more game. That’s the BNL motivational cry. The Stars will start that charge next week when they finish their preseason work with the intrasquad scrimmage on Oct. 25 and the IHSAA-sanctioned scrimmage with Heritage Christian on Oct. 27.