By MATTHEW CRESS
JEFFERSONVILLE — It hasn't been an easy month for the Jeffersonville boys' basketball team. It has gone 2-4 in February, including a 15-point loss at Class 3A Corydon earlier this week.
But there's still time to turn it around. Ask Drew Ellis.
The senior went off for 32 points on Saturday night, leading the Red Devils past pesky Castle 70-67 at Johnson Arena.
Jeff (10-10) evened its record at .500 with the win and picked up its second win in three tries.
"We've been playing harder, so it's nice to see the right side of the scoreboard," said Jeff coach Matt Pait. "Hopefully, we can carry this momentum forward."
Castle (14-7) trailed most of the night, but every time the Red Devils looked close to pulling away, the Knights had an answer. It took a steal and layup from senior Keenan Williams, who intercepted a long inbounds pass and took it the distance to finally close the door on the Knights.
In between, Ellis did most of the heavy lifting.
The 6-foot-3 senior got Jeff off to a hot start with 10 points in the first quarter, including a rare 4-point play, as he knocked down a 3 from the wing as he was fouled by a Castle defender.
Castle still led 19-18 at the end of the first, until Ellis kicked off a 12-3 run to open the second period, scoring eight points during the span that pulled Jeff in front 30-22 — and he found teammate Dionte Allen with a well-placed pass that led to a 3-point play to send the Red Devils into the locker room ahead 37-30.
After the intermission, the lead grew larger, ballooning to 11 at 46-35 on a basket by Leonard Kwitonda. Halfway through the third, Jeff continued to roll on one of Ellis' five 3-pointers, taking a 51-42 edge.
But Castle would not go away.
The Knights got two straight 3s from Cayman Meier to kick off a 9-3 outburst that pulled them to within 51-48 and, moments later, embarked on another 7-0 run to cut the Jeff lead to 60-58.
"They're a good team, plain and simple," Pait said. "It seemed like every time we had them on the ropes, they made a play. It was a very impressive win for us."
Demarre Sims had four points in the early going of the fourth quarter to keep Jeff in front, but Castle finally overtook the Red Devils on a layup from Mitchel Gibson with 1:42 to go. Jeff only trailed for a few seconds, reclaiming the edge at 68-66 and holding on until Williams' defensive play sealed it.
Sims finished with 15 points, while Ellis also had a team-high five rebounds and three steals.
"Drew has really begun to figure out his role," Pait said. "He's a great athlete and now he isn't trying to do too much and this sort of game is the result of that."
Jeff will try to keep the good times rolling against Charlestown (4-13) on Tuesday before closing the regular season Wednesday against Hoosier Hills rival Columbus East (15-3, 5-1 HHC). Both games are at Johnson Arena.
JEFFERSONVILLE 70, CASTLE 67
Castle 19 11 20 17—67
Jeffersonville 18 19 19 14—70
Castle (14-7): Cayman Meier 9, Devyn Johnston 16, Clay Seitz 4, Sean Seniour 7, Jace Parus 5, Mitchel Gibson 12, Steven Pergola 14.
Jeffersonville (10-10): Leonard Kwitonda 4, Drew Ellis 32, Chad Hudson 6, Demarre Sims 15, Keenan Williams 10, Dionte Allen 3.
3-point field goals: Castle 6 (Meier, Gibson, Pergola 2); Jeffersonville 5 (Ellis 5).
Rebounds: Castle 28 (Seniour 6); Jeffersonville 22 (Ellis 5).
Assists: Castle 9 (Johnson 5); Jeffersonville 9 (Hudson 4).
Blocked shots: Castle 1 (Meier); Jeffersonville 1 (Hudson).
Steals: Castle 6 (Johnston 2); Jeffersonville 6 (Ellis 3).
Turnovers: Castle 12, Jeffersonville 10.
Fouled out: Castle — Seitz.
Technical fouls: Castle — Seitz.