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February 2, 2014

H.S. BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Jeff rebounds for 68-57 win over Fairdale

Devils force 20 turnovers, shoot 48 percent in much-needed victory

FAIRDALE, Ky. — There’s no getting around it. Friday was not a good night for Jeffersonville basketball.

The Devils fell at home to a Bedford North Lawrence team with inferior talent for their sixth loss in seven games.

On Saturday, with only about 17 hours between games, the Jeffersonville team that showed up looked like the Jeffersonville team fans expected before the season.

The Devils played strong defense, had crisp ball movement and simply out-hustled host Fairdale in a 68-57 victory in the King of the Bluegrass Showcase at the Harry K. Hardin Athletic Center.

Jeff had 15 assists on 25 buckets, forced 20 Bulldog turnovers, scoring 30 points off of those turnovers. The Devils had nine steals, 11 offensive rebounds and outscored Fairdale 12-4 on second-chance points.

“I told the guys after a game like last night to just come back the next afternoon and get a win,” Pait said. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but overall, I’m proud of the way the guys responded after last night.”

“It feels good to win after a tough loss,” said senior forward Leonard Kwitonda, who had seven points, six boards, two blocked shots and two steals. “It’s a new day, so we were ready.”

Senior guard Keenan Williams, who had 13 points and a team-best five assists, said fans can expect improved performance from the Devils down the homestretch of the season.

“We came out focused today,” Williams said. “We played defense and played with intensity. That’s mostly what it was — intensity. If we play [with intensity], we can beat anybody.”

As good as the offense looked, Jeff’s defense stood out in the win. Despite 30 points from Bulldog star Cory Thomas, the Devils pestered the Bulldogs throughout the contest. The Jeff defense forced 20 turnovers and allowed Fairdale to take just 34 field goal attempts.

“Defensively, we did a pretty good job,” Pait said. “[Thomas] made some tough shots.”

“I think our defense was a lot better today,” Kwitonda said. “We got a lot of big stops.”

Thanks for the improved ball movement, Jeff shot 48 percent from the floor, including 8 of 16 from behind the 3-point line.

“Offensively, I thought we did a much better job than last night,” Pait said. “A lot of that was just moving the ball. We didn’t run many plays at all. We were just runner up and down the floor and moving the ball. We were so stagnant last night. Today, we did a much better job of that.”

Jeff broke a 6-6 tie on a Chad Hudson 3-pointer with 4:07 left in the opening period. After the Bulldogs tied the game again late in the first quarter, Demarre Sims hit a 3 to give the Devils an 18-15. They led the rest of the way.

A Drew Ellis bucket gave Jeff its biggest lead at 29-21 at the 4:51 mark of the second quarter. Fairdale was able to close the gap to 29-27, but Hudson hit his second 3, Ellis knocked down a 3, Kwitonda hit a pair of free throws and Sims scored on a fast break to give Jeff a 39-30 halftime lead.

After Williams pushed the lead to 44-32 early in the third, the Bulldogs came back with a 7-0 run. Jeff closed the period on an 8-3 spurt as Ronnie Todd hit a 3 to make it 52-42 after three quarters.

The closest Fairdale was able to get in the final period was at 54-48, but baskets by Ellis, Kwitonda and Williams made it 60-50 with four minutes left. Ellis hit a 3 and two free throws to close the door on the hosts.

Ellis had a team-high 19 points, but the Devils got contributions from several players. Wililams scored 13, Sims had nine, Hudson had eight and Kwitonda seven. Jeff also had three players with at least three assists.

“I think that’s our recipe for winning right now,” Pait said. “We’ve got guys who are capable of putting points on the board. Everybody knows Drew and Keenan can score the ball, but those aren’t the only guys we have. Some of those guys stepping up and getting eight, nine, 10 points — that’s going to really help us down the stretch.”

Senior center Dionte Allen had six points in the first half before re-injuring a knee he hurt during the football season. Allen said after the game that the injury wasn’t as serious as it was during football and he expects to play in the Devils’ next game Friday at 10-4 Evansville Reitz.

“He’s walking, so that’s good,” Pait said. “We’ll get it evaluated and we’ll see.”

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