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BOYS AND GIRLS BB: Bidunga, Rogers, Peckinpaugh, Harness help Indiana to wins

Jun. 10—INDIANAPOLIS — Gainbridge Fieldhouse hosted an intense doubleheader on Saturday night. One game featured a comeback where the team trailing the majority of the game fought through at the end to win. The other was the opposite where the team that built a big lead saw the lead dwindle but eventually held off a game opponent.

In both cases the Indiana All-Stars were the ones celebrating at the end.

To start the evening, Carroll's Alli Harness was part of the Indiana girls squad which fought back to beat Kentucky 66-64 and sweep the annual series after winning Friday night's game in Lexington, Kentucky.

Then to close Saturday night's event, Kokomo's Flory Bidunga and Karson Rogers and Wildkat coach John Peckinpaugh savored victory after Indiana's boys team held off the Kentucky All-Stars 92-89 to split the two-day series after dropping Friday's game in Kentucky.

BOYS GAME

Bidunga went into the annual rivalry series as Indiana's Mr. Basketball and closed the evening as Saturday night's MVP of the boys game. He had game-highs of 31 points and 17 rebounds while also notching four assists, a steal and five blocks.

A night after dropping the game in Kentucky, where Bidunga fouled out on a debated call with more than half the second half left to play, Indiana's players were motivated to dig in and win Saturday.

"We challenged the guys to take it personal," Peckinpaugh said. "Kind of some stuff didn't go our way down there [Friday in Kentucky], it was out of our control. I didn't do a good job of handling that adversity and it kind of snowballed down to our players.

"We challenged them to step up and try their best to defend some guys that had made really tough shots, and I thought we did a good job of that [Saturday] night for the majority of the game. They have a couple guys over there that made some really tough shots — you saw that late — but overall, for 40 minutes, I thought we played really good basketball."

Indiana set the tone early and took a 19-point lead into halftime, 50-31. Bidunga had 18 points in the first half and got in deep to dunk six times. Forward Jack Benter had 13 points at the break including a buzzer-beating 3, and guard K.J. Windham had 11 points.

"Obviously as the Coach said, we took it personal," Bidunga said. "I was wanting to support my teammates, get them fired up and give our best and fight through adversity that's happening."

Behind the trio of Kentucky Mr. Basketball Travis Perry, wing shooter Max Green and guard Quel'Ron House, the Bluegrass boys kept chipping away in the second half and closed the gap to just 3 points on a bucket by Quel-Ron House with :25 left. Kentucky got another possession with :19 left but couldn't connect again and the Indiana All-Stars held on to win.

"I think we came out with more energy," Rogers said "We really wanted to get back at them for the loss they put on us in Lexington."

Perry, Green and House combined for 20 points in the first half, then combined to score 46 more in the final half but Indiana had enough answers to keep the lead all second half.

Indiana got more balance as Benter scored 16, Windham 13, Micah Davis 11, Evan Haywood 10 and Keenan Garner nine.

Playing in a reserve role, Rogers had an assist for Indiana, which had 21 assists on 36 buckets.

"It was very important," Rogers said of the team responding after Friday's loss. "We were all contemplating on that loss so we really wanted to bounce back. We knew we were going to return to our home court and like coach has been saying all week, we're playing for more than just us. We're playing for the entire state of Indiana. We really wanted to play hard [Saturday] night."

Saturday's victory ended a short, intense week for the Indiana All-Stars, who came together to practice at the beginning of the week, then play three games — a scrimmage against the Junior All-Stars, and two for keeps against Kentucky. Getting on the same page quickly was important.

"We're from Indiana, we play against each other, we're pretty much friendly and have a good relationship between us," Bidunga said. It was important "just trusting ... let that connection grow up."

It worked as planned Saturday night.

"It's such a great honor to be a part of this," Peckinpaugh said. "Every kid growing up, playing high school basketball in Indiana, dreams to be a part of this. To get to experience it this week was special to me. It's something I've dreamed about my whole life. To get to work with these guys this week has been a joy. It's been a fun group."

The memory will linger far beyond the week the team was together.

"It's just an honor to spend it with a group of guys like this," Rogers said of the All-Star week. "They're all great teammates, all fun guys, great personalities. It's been a lot of fun."

GIRLS GAME

Kentucky held a 17-11 lead after a quarter, opened its biggest lead at 34-22 late in the first half, and went into the locker room up 34-25. The Indiana All-Stars were just 5 of 29 from the field in the first half but charged back in the third quarter to tie the game at 47-47.

The fourth quarter featured five lead changes and three ties before Indiana secured the win. Miss Basketball Chloe Spreen scored the last seven points for the Indiana All-Stars, taking the lead for good with a 3-point play off a feed from Faith Wiseman.

"I think the first half was pretty rough, but I think we took that out of our minds and we just played the second half like it was a new half and played with all of our hearts, and I think we did pretty well," Harness said. "We came together and said if we really want to go out like this, then we need to play with our hearts and I think we did that in the second half. We played with a lot of heart."

Spreen finished with 16 points, Juliann Woodard scored 15, Lauren Walsh 12 and Wiseman 10.

Both teams were shorthanded due to injuries. Kentucky was without Miss Basketball Trinity Rowe and Indiana without starting point guard Jordyn Poole. Playing without Poole meant Indiana turned to its full rotation of guards to do more.

"She creates a lot," Harness said. "She creates a lot of passes and movement. It's tough not having her, but I'm just glad we won."

Harness had a steal as Indiana's defense played a role. Indiana forced Kentucky into 25 turnovers to Indiana's 13. She finishes her Indiana All-Star experience having contributed to a sweep of the two-night series.

"It's been a really great experience that I've wanted since I was a little girl and I've been dreaming of this," Harness said. "When I got the call I was so ecstatic and I was so happy. I've been working really hard and I'm just so happy to be a part of this team.