By KEVIN HARRIS
Heading into this weekend, the Jeffersonville boys’ basketball team had one goal — to get off to a good start in defending its Hoosier Hills Conference championship.
After defeating Seymour 83-21 in their HHC opener on Friday night, the Red Devils got their second conference victory on Saturday night at Connor K. Salm Gymnasium with an 80-54 win over Madison.
“It’s a lot better than starting 1-1 or 0-2,” Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said. “We’re pretty happy with that.”
Red Devil junior Keenan Williams said it was critical for his team to begin the conference season 2-0.
“It was very important. We’ve got to defend it,” Williams said. “We were conference champions last year and we want to be conference champions this year. We want to do it two years in a row.”
Williams made several contributions in Saturday’s victory. He led Jeff (3-0) in scoring with 20 points, shooting 9-of-11 from the field. Williams, who tallied 12 points in the first quarter, got several buckets off of Jeff’s fast break or by beating Cub defenders off the dribble.
Williams stepped up his scoring load on Saturday, as Madison (2-3, 0-2 HHC) tried to contain Jeff’s leading scorer, Darryl Baker, with a box-and-one defense. The Cubs also tried to slow down Baker by double-teaming him.
“They’re doubling on Darryl, so I needed to step up and be aggressive. That’s what I did tonight and that’s what I try to do every night,” Williams said.
Williams, who only saw six minutes of varsity action last season, is glad to be getting his chance to get more varsity playing time this season.
“I was very excited to play varsity and to be able to play with somebody like Darryl,” Williams said. “He’s an amazing ballplayer. To play beside him is great and I like playing beside everybody else, too. We’re one big family.”
Madison’s defensive strategy did not work on Baker. The Jeff senior guard scored 19 points, making eight of his 13 field-goal attempts and 3-of-4 free throws.
Red Devil sophomore Myles Harvey also had a solid night, scoring-wise. The 5-foot-11 guard made all six of his shots, including two 3-pointers, in chipping in 14 points.
“Madison put a box-and-one on us and we’re hard to box-and-one,” Gilbert said. “I thought we played pretty unselfish for the most part and we did a good job rebounding.”
A crucial moment in the contest for Jeff was the closing minutes of the first quarter. Leading 15-13, Jeff reeled off 11 consecutive points to go up by 13 at 26-13. Harvey, Williams and teammate Kortrell White each had a 3-pointer during the run.
“In that quarter, we hit some shots early on. We had fresh legs,” Gilbert said. “Our [defensive] pressure tried to speed them up and get them out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Junior Landon Perry paced the Cubs with 22 points as he hit four 3-pointers. Madison senior Ryan Thurston scored 14 points.
Jeff will host Louisville Ballard on Tuesday. The Bruins are the No. 1 team in Kentucky and ranked 24th in the nation.
“We now turn to Ballard on Tuesday night. We’re going to have to make sure that we play within ourselves, be under control and try not to make it an open-gym game,” Gilbert said. “Maturity has to be a key ingredient to our team.”