Final score: Jeffersonville 96, Charlestown 66.
But don’t look at this as strictly a blowout win for the Red Devils. Or likewise a blowout loss for the Pirates.
What you had was a game between neighborhood rivals for the first time in years. A game that was a great sectional tune-up for both squads. Don’t be surprised to see either team make a strong sectional run.
And in the case of the Red Devils — a run at another state championship.
Jeffersonville (19-3) managed to win its fifth in a row heading into next week’s Class 4A Seymour Sectional as it blew the game open in the third quarter expanding a 45-33 halftime lead to 73-49 at the end of the third.
Charlestown (11-8) took to the floor on Tuesday determined to, if not stop, but contain the Red Devils’ All-State candidate, Darryl Baker.
Baker did score just 12 points, which is about half his average and less than a third of what he managed as he scored 38 in a victory over Castle last Saturday. That followed a 29-point effort the previous night against Louisville Trinity.
But Jeffersonville is more than Baker — much more.
Charlestown’s attempt at putting a box-and-one defense on Baker opened things up for the remainder of the Red Devils squad as junior Keenan Williams scored a game- and career-high 28 points. Drew Ellis, another junior, added 22 points, while a sophomore, Myles Harvey, added 12 points.
“Junk defenses don’t bother us,” said Jeffersonville coach Chad Gilbert. “Three times this year teams have done that against us, and all three times we’ve won by 30 points.
“I feel that Darryl is the best player in the state, but we had some guys step up and make plays tonight. We played very unselfish tonight. Darryl doesn’t care if he scores 12 points or 40. We’re 19-3 after losing seven guys from last year. That just shows the will to win that these kids have.”
Charlestown led only once in the game, 4-2. Baker’s first basket, a dunk, gave Jeffersonville a 6-4 lead. It was an advantage the Red Devils would keep for the remainder of the game.
Williams scored 13 points in that opening quarter, including back-to-back baskets after the Pirates’ Tyler Combs hit a 3-pointer to pull Charlestown to within 19-13.
Jeff led by 18 points, 45-27, shortly before halftime. But the Pirates’ Aaron Daniel hit back-to-back 3-pointers, including an off-balance shot at the buzzer to pull Charlestown to within 45-33.
Justin Conrad hit a trey to open the second half for the Pirates to cut the lead to single digits. But Jeff answered with back-to-back treys from Harvey and Ellis.
From there, the game wasn’t in doubt.
“They are extremely talented, well-coached, athletic and fast,” said Charlestown coach Sean Smith of the Red Devils. “And not only are they athletic and fast, but they can shoot the ball. Darryl Baker is probably the best player I’ve coached against. I can see them making a run in the tournament.”
“We tried to control the tempo. We had decided that if they pressed us ,we were going to try to get a layup or work it for a good shot. We were getting good looks in the first half. We just weren’t making them.
“If they fall, then it’s a much closer game. And we were without Gage Martin tonight. His ballhandling could have made a difference.”
Daniel led the Pirates with 24 points, but had to go to the bench midway in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. Chris Braun added 15 points, while Combs came off the bench to finish with 11 points.
For seniors Daniel and Braun, it was their last appearance in front of the home crowd, although the Pirates are a sectional host. Conrad and Cody Donahue are the other seniors on the Pirates’ squad.
“We struggle when Aaron and Chris aren’t in there,” Smith said. “They are both tremendous players. And Tyler Combs stepped up tonight and did a tremendous job.”
Gilbert likewise had praise for Williams and his play.
“Keenan not only had a great scoring night, but had some big rebounds that led to some easy baskets,” Gilbert said. “And I’m anxious to see how many assists we had.”
“I missed my first shot tonight- a 3, then got it going,” Williams said. “Everyone on this team is unselfish. When a man is open, they get him the ball.
“And Darryl, he’s great and very unselfish. What impresses me most about him is yea, he averages around 24 points a game. But he also gets about eight assists a game.”
This game was the first of a four-year contract between the two schools who have faced each other very little since the introduction of class basketball. Gilbert for one is in favor of it.
“I played here [Charlestown],” he said. “We beat Jeff my junior and senior year and it was one of the highlights of my career. I think both teams like playing each other. It’s good for both teams and it’s better that getting on a bus and driving two hours to play. And I don’t think that Jeff or Charlestown are afraid to play anybody.”
While Jeff will not return to action until next Tuesday when it will face Floyd Central at the start of sectional play, Charlestown has one regular season game remaining as it travels to play those same Highlanders on Friday.
“We’ll come back [today] to practice and get ready for Friday,” Smith said.
Williams scores career-high 28 to lead Jeff past Charlestown, 96-66
Final score: Jeffersonville 96, Charlestown 66.
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