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January 20, 2013

H.S. BOYS' BASKETBALL: White helps Jeff move to top of HHC with 83-79 win over East

Senior hits six critical free throws in OT to preserve victory

COLUMBUS — Sometimes a championship contender needs an unsung hero to step up when it gets into a difficult situation.

On Saturday night at The Orange Pit, that player for the Jeffersonville Red Devils was Kortrell White.

The 6-foot senior came off the bench to score 13 points, including six in overtime, to help Jeff take sole possession of first place in the Hoosier Hills Conference with an 83-79 victory over Columbus East.

The Red Devils (12-2) are now 5-0 in the HHC, a half-game ahead of second-place Jennings County (10-5, 4-0 HHC). The Olympians (8-2, 4-1) suffered their first HHC loss and now stand in third place in the conference, a full game behind Jeff.

The Red Devils can move a game closr to their second straight HHC title with a victory next Friday at Bedford North Lawrence. Their final conference game will be Thursday, Feb. 7 at Johnson Arena against Jennings.

“We’re putting ourselves in a good position. Now, we’re going into a tough place to play next week at Bedford,” Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said. “That’s what our schedule has allowed us to do — to be in games like this. We’re tested, but we’re not satisfied and we know we have to get better every single day.”

White said the Red Devils still have a lot of work to do if they are to capture another HHC crown.

“Even though we won this game, we still have to be ready for the next game,” White said.

All of White’s six overtime points came at the free throw line, where he was a perfect 6-for-6. After Keenan Williams converted a layup to put Jeff up 73-71 early in OT, White knocked down a pair of free throws at the 2:44 mark to give the Devils a four-point lead.

After East tied the game at 75 with four consecutive free throws, Jeff answered by scoring four of the contest’s next five points to go up 79-76. Williams and senior Darryl Baker each hit two foul shots in that spurt.

White really had to come through in the clutch with 11.1 seconds left in OT as Baker, the Red Devils’ leading scorer, fouled out.

“I knew I had to step up,” White said.

But after the Olympians’ Zach Martindale made the first free throw in a two-shot situation, White grabbed the rebound when Martindale missed the second foul shot.

White immediately got fouled with 8.8 seconds remaining and swished both free throws to give Jeff an 81-77 cushion.

Following a putback bucket by East’s Ridge Harris with 2.2 seconds left, White sealed the victory with .4 seconds remaining with a couple more free throws.

Gilbert praised White’s gritty effort down the stretch, especially with Baker and three other Jeff starters — Jacquari Chandler, Myles Harvey and Drew Ellis — all fouled out.

“He stepped up big. He’s been through the battles. He’s one of those guys who lays it out on the line every night,” Gilbert said. “He stepped up big in Myles’ absence. Tonight, he stepped up and hit big free throws, but he got them by getting big rebounds.”

White, who was 7-of-7 from the stripe for the game, said the free throw shooting he and his teammates have done in practice paid off. The Devils converted 8-of-8 foul shots in OT.

“We practice them every day, like 30-40 minutes a day,” White said. “I was ready to come down and knock down those six free throws.”

Jeff took its largest lead of the game at 47-37 at the 2:37 mark of the third quarter when Williams capped off a 7-0 run with a layup off the fast break.

With the Devils leading 51-42 late in the third, the Olympians reeled off nine unanswered points to deadlock the game at 51 early in the fourth.

“We got guys in foul trouble. We had to put guys in different spots and play a little different than the way we wanted to,” Gilbert said about the Olympians’ comeback.

East took a 66-65 lead with 1:26 remaining in regulation as sophomore Connor Umphress made 1-of-2 foul shots. But Ellis gave Jeff a 68-66 lead at the 1:14 mark when he nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Following an Umphress layup that tied the game at 68, Ellis came through again with a 3 from the left corner off a Baker assist to put the Red Devils up three points with 30.8 seconds left.

But with 3.3 ticks remaining, senior point guard Kyle Taylor penetrated into the lane and passed the ball to senior reserve Dakota Thompson in the left corner. Thompson then nailed a 3 to deadlock the score at 71 and send the game into OT.

Baker was one point from his career-high with 37 points. He was 14-of-30 from the floor, 2-of-8 from 3-point range and 7-of-8 from the line. But Baker, who also had three assists, impressed Gilbert with his unselfishness in the second half and the OT.

“He did a great job for us,” Gilbert said. “I think Darryl is a top-tier guard. I think the only person that can guard Darryl is Darryl. But what he did down the stretch was he was the one who gave the ball to Drew to allow Drew to hit those 3’s. That’s what good players do.”

Williams finished with 12 points, while Ellis poured in 10 points and had three assists. Chandler had seven points, a team-high seven rebounds and a game-high three steals.

Nate Rich paced the Olympians with 17 points, shooting 5-of-8 from 3-point range. East center Bryce Lienhoop had a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Martindale also scored 14 points and Taylor had 11 points and a game-high four assists.

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