By KEVIN HARRIS
The Jeffersonville Red Devils got some much-needed momentum heading into next week’s Class 4A New Albany Sectional on Thursday night at the Larkin Center.
Jeff got a game-high 14 points from senior guard Nichole Midgett and held host Providence a season-low point total in a 35-19 victory.
Entering the contest, the Red Devils (7-13) had lost three games in a row and eight of the last nine.
“Anytime you win a game, it’s big and especially when it’s the last game of the year,” Jeff coach Matt Pait said. “But then again, this game doesn’t mean anything on Tuesday night. We played well tonight — well enough to win. We’ve got to duplicate this effort on Tuesday night.
“We’ve had a little bit of team turmoil lately. I’m extremely proud of the way that we fought through it and came together as a team tonight. That’s the complete [junior varsity] and varsity teams.”
With Jeff junior forward Haley Vogen battling foul trouble all night, Midgett stepped up big time for the Red Devils in the second half.
Midgett scored 10 points in the final 16 minutes, which included a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1 minutes and 15 seconds of the third quarter to give Jeff a 21-10 lead. The pair of 3’s were the only field goals the Red Devils made in the quarter.
Midgett then started the fourth period with a 15-foot jumper from the wing and then a steal and a layup to give Jeff a 25-10 lead.
“She was very, very critical,” Pait said. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying she won the game for us because it was a complete team effort tonight, but I thought Nichole played extremely well. She responded to our coaching [on Wednesday in practice] and did a great job for us tonight. She picked us up exactly the moment when we needed something done.”
The Pioneers (11-10) extended their 2-3 zone in the closing minutes of the contest to put some pressure on the Jeff guards. The Red Devils took advantage by getting the ball in the middle of the zone and scoring several points out of their zone offense. Jeff outscored Providence 10-9 in the final six minutes.
“Once they got down a little bit, they had to come and get us,” Pait said. “It opened up the middle of the zone. When you get in the middle of the zone, you can get a lot of shots. I thought we did a very good job of attacking the right spots in the fourth quarter and finishing around the rim.”
Jeff’s defensive pressure made life miserable for the Pioneers. Providence committed 39 turnovers and ended up shooting 6-of-19 from the floor (31.6 percent).
“Defense is our ‘M.O.,’” Pait said. “I thought we did an extremely good job on defense, on the ball especially by forcing them into turnovers and keep them in front of us.”
In the first half, the Pioneers turned the ball over 26 times and their lone field goal made came with three seconds left in the half when Lillian Hughes hit a shot from the elbow. The Red Devils led Providence at halftime, 14-4.
Providence coach Brad Burden also blamed his team’s free-throw shooting for the loss. For the game, the Pioneers were 5-of-16 from the stripe (31.3 percent).
“It was all turnovers and free-throw shooting,” said Pioneers’ coach Brad Burden, who was without sophomore point guard Abby Hunt because of an injury. “The girls fought hard. I thought we played really well defensively and we rebounded well, but their pressure has so much to do with our turnovers. We’ve got to have somebody that can handle the ball and handle our pressure, and we don’t.
“Turnovers and missed free throws killed us.”
Jeff’s Nycia Ford, Emily Gray and Taylor Sykes each tallied five points. Ford grabbed a team-high six rebounds, while teammate Chelsea Lewis made a game-high five steals. Midgett and Sykes each had four steals.
Hughes paced Providence with seven points, while teammate Taylor Smallwood snagged a game-high seven boards.
Jeff will take on Floyd Central (10-11) in the first round of the 4A sectional at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The Red Devils defeated the Highlanders on Dec. 18 at Johnson Arena, 56-45.
Pait is thankful that Class 4A No. 2 and 21-0 Bedford North Lawrence is on the opposite side of the bracket. The Stars will face New Albany (9-11) in Tuesday’s other first-round game.
“I’m happy with the draw as far as Bedford being on the other side and that’s about it,” Pait said. “They’re by far the favorite. They’re a great team. Anybody who has to play them is going to have to play a great game to beat them.
“Floyd’s a great team. We were lucky to beat them the first time at home, and we’re going to have to play our best game of the year to beat them.”
Providence got a first-round bye in the Class 2A Paoli Sectional. The Pioneers will play in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. a week from today against either Clarksville (4-18) or Class 2A No. 2 Paoli (18-1).
Burden anticipates a matchup with the host Rams.
“Paoli is awful good,” Burden said. “We’ll prepare for them this week. It gives us a whole week to prepare for them. If you are opposite of them, you’re going to probably face them in the championship so you only have one night to prepare for them.”