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February 24, 2014

H.S. BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Dog, Devils could meet again for title

Defending champion Braves draw bye; Silver Creek, Clarksville have tough routes

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — In the past 11 years, New Albany and Jeffersonville have met in the Class 4A Seymour Sectional eight times.

Seven of those eight meetings have come in championship games. It could happen again in 2014.

The 14-5 Bulldogs and the 10-10 Red Devils are on opposite sides of the Class 4A Sectional 15 draw and could meet in the championship game at Lloyd Scott Gymnasium on Saturday, March 8.

“If you’re looking at the history, yeah, you’d have to say the percentages say [the championship game] will be [New Albany and Jeff], but Jennings [County] is going to have a lot to say about it,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “They beat Jeff and they beat us. They have to be one of the favorites.”

“I’m sure for the fans, that’s what they’re hoping for,” Jeff first-year head coach Matt Pait said. “I know Jim and I are hoping to get there and have a chance to win the thing, but all six teams are hoping to. Both of our fan bases would love to see [Jeff and New Albany] in the championship, but we both have some tough roads to go.”

Both teams open in next Tuesday’s sectional quarterfinals. The Bulldogs drew county-rival Floyd Central (3-17) — a team that has lost eight straight games, but a team that took New Albany to the wire in a 49-45 loss on Dec. 13.

“We’ve won the sectional going the long route [and] we’ve won it with the bye. But we’ve lost it going the long route and we’ve lost it with bye,” Shannon recalled. “We know we have to win three games and we’re going to take one game at a time. It’s a matter of surviving now. It could have been better, it could have been worse. I don’t mind at all the way it came out.”

The Devils will open sectional play next Tuesday against Jennings County (12-8). Pait said that, overall, he likes the draw despite the Devils facing a Panther team that beat them 72-60 on Feb. 13.

“We really didn’t want the bye since our last [regular-season] game is Wednesday,” he said. “It’s good that we play Tuesday night. It’s a tough game for us. I kinda like it because it’s a game we lost. Our guys should be up for it and ready to go. It’s a game we’ll have to play very well to have a chance to win the game.”

No team in the entire state got a tougher draw than Silver Creek (12-5) in Class 3A. In order to win their first sectional championship since 2000, the 14th-ranked Dragons will likely have to beat No. 10 Madison (13-4), No. 4 Corydon Central (17-2) and then No. 8 Brownstown Central (15-3) at the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional.

“Well, nothing’s ever been easy for us, so why not?” Creek coach Brandon Hoffman asked. “We’re going to have to go through three ranked teams in four days, but our kids aren’t ones to back down from a challenge. If we’re able to pull it off, it’ll just make it sweeter.”

First, in the final first-round game on Wednesday, Feb. 26, Creek would have to knock off Madison for a second time. Silver Creek beat the Cubs 61-54 on Jan. 31, but Hoffman knows beating them a second time won’t be easy.

“They’re top 10 in the state for a reason,” Hoffman said. “We played arguably our best game of the year against them. It’s going to take a great effort just to get out of the first round.”

A week from today, Charlestown (4-13) will take on Salem (2-16) in the second game of the night. One of the Pirates’ four wins came at Salem when they beat the Lions, 50-37. In the second round, Charlestown would face the winner between Brownstown Central and Scottsburg (8-10). Brownstown — the defending champion and likely first-round winner — beat the Pirates 80-35 on Jan. 31.

Next Tuesday will be the big night in the Class 2A sectional at Paoli as second-ranked Clarksville (16-2) will take on No. 8 Crawford County (16-3) after Providence (12-5) battles Paoli (11-7) in the sectional’s opening night.

“It’s win or go home. If we want to win the sectional, we have to beat everybody in front of you,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “Whether we play Crawford at the beginning or the end, it doesn’t matter. Paoli is a scary team too, especially on their home court. Providence-Paoli, I think that’s going to be a really good game. I think there are going to be two really good games [next] Tuesday night.”

Clarksville is the defending sectional champion and, as the area’s only unbeaten team against its sectional field, is the clear favorite at Paoli. However, the Generals still have to face Silver Creek on Thursday night for the Mid-Southern Conference championship.

“I haven’t even started thinking about sectional,” Connell said. “The conference championship is Thursday. We’ve got to take care of that first. I don’t even want to talk about the sectional until Friday.”

Defending Class A state champion Borden will have a much tougher time getting through the sectional in 2014. The Class A Borden Sectional features a pair of ranked teams — No. 6 Christian Academy and the No. 9 Braves — and two more potential contenders in Rock Creek Academy (11-9) and Lanesville (13-8).

Borden (14-4) and Lanesville each drew byes, while Rock Creek will open with South Central (5-15) and CAI faces New Washington (6-14) in next Tuesday’s first round.

The Rock Creek-South Central winner will face Borden, and Lanesville gets the Christian Academy-New Wash victor. Rock Creek beat South Central 70-47 in Elizabeth on Jan. 11. CAI knocked off New Washington 59-33 on Jan. 3.

“It’s good for Lanesville and ourselves,” Braves’ coach Doc Nash said. “We only have to beat two of the other three good teams. But at tourney time, anything can happen.”

Borden, which is 4-1 against sectional opponents this season, has won the last two sectional titles and four of the last six. CAI, which won at Borden this season 44-41, and Lanesville also are both 4-1 against the Sectional 62 field. But all eyes will be on the defending champions.

“They have been all year,” Nash said. “We’ve had a bull’s-eye on our backs all year long. To our kids’ credit, they’ve taken a lot of hits but have still had a lot of success. We’re looking forward to the postseason. We’re going to have fun with it.”

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