By CHRIS STONER
Jeffersonville began its brutal finishing stretch to the season with a 73-56 victory over Corydon Central on Tuesday night at Johnson Arena.
The Red Devils finish their regular season with four games in an eight-day span, which began Tuesday night. But despite the win, Jeff coach Chad Gilbert was not pleased with his team’s effort.
“We had 19 turnovers and that’s just too many turnovers,” Gilbert said. “For us to advance in the season like we want to advance, we can’t turn the ball over on silly stuff. We have to turn the corner or [Louisville] Trinity will flat embarrass us on Friday and Castle will spank us and send us home packing [on Saturday]. This is my fault. We have to come out ready to go at practice [today]. It’s kind of like Rocky III when Rocky is kissing girls and Clubber [Lang] is down there working his tail off. We’ve got to get our ‘Eye of the Tiger’ back. We need that edge back quick and we will get it back. I take responsibility on that.”
The Red Devils (16-3) used their smothering defense to grab control of the game from the onset. Jeff forced seven Panther first-period turnovers and Jacquari Chandler poured in seven points to power the hosts to a 16-7 lead at the end of one quarter.
By intermission, Jeff led 35-18 behind Darryl Baker’s 11 first-half points. The game was stopped momentarily late in the second period after a Baker basket to honor the senior for scoring his 1,000th point as a Red Devil.
Jeff, which defeated Corydon (13-5) for the seventh straight time, shot 51 percent in the first half compared to the visitors’ 29 percent.
“At half, we wanted to continue doing what we were doing,” Gilbert said. “We thought we were still sloppy and too cute. We always seem like we have to put some mustard on stuff and championship teams don’t do that. That’s something that we’re fighting.”
Baker proceeded to pump in 12 of his game-high 25 points in the third frame as the Devils built a 26-point lead late in the period. Corydon, which had won three straight coming into the game, didn’t back down and pieced together a 16-0 run to close within 54-44 with 5:55 left in the fourth.
“I thought we had a lot of individual play tonight,” Gilbert said. “We had a whole lot of dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot. Not a lot of dribble and pass. The other night against Jennings County, we had 27 assists on our 35 baskets. There were not a whole lot of assists tonight.”
Keenan Williams helped ensure the Jeff victory by scoring 10 of his 19 in the final frame, as the home team won its second straight. Overall, Jeff shot 50 percent and forced 25 Corydon giveaways. The Panthers were led by Tyler Ross’ 18 points, while Bronson Kessinger added 17.
The Red Devils will be back in action on Friday night, as they host Trinity (24-4), Kentucky’s top-ranked team. Corydon will visit Mid-Southern Conference foe Silver Creek (8-10) on Friday.