Just a few weeks back, some might have been tempted to write off the Jeffersonville Red Devils as a contender in next week’s Class 4A Seymour Sectional.
With Wednesday’s 72-68 win over Class 4A No. 16 Columbus East at Johnson Arena, Jeffersonville served notice that they might be a player in the postseason after all.
After losing 8 of 10 contests at one point earlier in the season, the Red Devils have now won three consecutive games and four of their last five.
“We’ve been inconsistent, and I know it’s been a tough season,” Jeffersonville coach Matt Pait said, “but these kids have worked hard and right now we’re playing our best basketball. We’re going to go up to Seymour with the attitude that we can win it.”
The Red Devils (12-10, 3-4 HHC) never trailed and jumped out to a 7-2 lead after Drew Ellis nailed a 3-pointer with 6:23 remaining. That would be as close as the Olympians would get until 6-foot-5 forward Connor Umphress scored on a layup with 49.8 seconds left in the first quarter to make the score 20-17.
Ellis answered Umphress’s score with one of his four 3-pointers, which came with 6.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The 6-3 guard narrowly missed another when he came up with a steal on Columbus East’s next possession and his three-quarter court heave hit the rim at the first-quarter buzzer.
Jeffersonville would take control of the contest during the second quarter, though it went scoreless for the first three minutes. After 6-7 Olympian forward Bryce Lienhoop sank two free throws with 5:27 remaining in the first half to draw Columbus East to within 23-19, Keenan Williams hit a short jumper for the Red Devils to advance the margin to six.
The Red Devils hit five of their next six shots in growing the lead to double digits. Ellis, who scored 18 points in the first half, hit another 3 to give Jeffersonville a 36-23 lead with 90 seconds remaining before intermission. The score was 36-25 at the half.
Williams and Ellis combined for 30 of Jeffersonville’s 36 points in the first 16 minutes.
Lienhoop rallied his squad throughout the second half. After only putting up six points in the first half, the senior All-State candidate notched 18 in the second half and scored his squad’s final eight points.
His rebound putback off a missed 3-point attempt by guard Parker Chitty brought his squad to within 68-66 with 2:12 remaining in the contest.
After that score, Williams coolly sank a 17-foot jumper and Dionte Allen nailed two free throws to make the score 72-66 with 30 seconds remaining and kill the East rally.
The heroes for Jeffersonville were plenty. Ellis led all scorers with 26 points and Williams added 24. Allen, a 6-5, 278-pound center who has been dealing with injuries throughout the late part of the schedule, came off the bench to score 12 points and appears ready to do battle in the postseason.
Perhaps the biggest contribution came for the Red Devils from the littlest guy on the floor. Demare Sims, a 5-9, 146-pound sophomore guard, contributed four points, but more importantly, grabbed eight rebounds to lead Jeffersonville in that department.
“It was a good team win,” Pait said. “We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people tonight, and we were able to beat a very good team because of that. This will give us more confidence heading into next week.”
Lienhoop led the Olympians with 24 points and 18 rebounds.
The win also handed the Hoosier Hills Conference crown to archrival New Albany, whose coach, Jim Shannon, was looking on at Johnson Arena. The Bulldogs finished the HHC slate at 6-1, one game better than the Olympians.
The Red Devils face Jennings County in the second game Tuesday night in Seymour in opening play of the 4A sectional.
JEFFERSONVILLE 72, COLUMBUS EAST 68
Jeffersonville 23 13 24 12—72
Columbus East 17 8 22 21—68
Jeffersonville (12-10, 3-4 HHC): Lambus 0, Kwintonda 2, Ellis 26, Hudson 4, Sims 4, Major 0, Dale 2, Williams 24, Allen 12, Blanton 0.
Columbus East (15-4, 5-2): Lienhoop 24, Foster 0, Umphress 22, Chitty 7, Sublette 0, Williams 8, Nolting 7.
Rebounds: Jeffersonville 27 (Sims 8); Columbus East 32 (Lienhoop 18).
3-point field goals: Jeffersonville 5 (Ellis 4, Allen); columbus East 6 (Umphress 4, Nolting, Chitty).
Free throws: Jeffersonville 13-21, Columbus East 15-23.
Turnovers: Jeffersonville 8, Columbus East 14.