By KEVIN HARRIS
Jeffersonville and New Albany took different paths to tonight’s Class 4A Seymour Sectional championship during Friday’s semifinals at Scott Gym.
The Red Devils cruised to another victory — defeating Bedford North Lawrence in the first semi, 83-58. In the nightcap, the Bulldogs pulled out a dramatic nailbiter to knock off Jennings County, 61-59.
Tip-off for tonight’s title game is 7:30. It will be the eighth time the archrivals have met in the Class 4A Seymour Sectional final since the sectional started in 1998. The teams have not met in the championship since 2010.
In the regular-season meeting on Jan. 4 at Johnson Arena, Jeff blew out New Albany, 70-46.
NEW ALBANY-JENNINGS COUNTY
In the most competitive game in the sectional so far, junior Leondre McBirth nailed a 19-foot jumper with one second remaining in regulation to lead the Bulldogs (15-7) past the Panthers, 61-59.
With less than a minute in regulation, Jennings junior Adrian Kirchner intercepted a Garrett Arnold pass at half-court and made a layup to tie the game at 59.
New Albany immediately took the ball down the court and set up its offense. McBirth got the ball near the top of the key on a pitch from Jermaine Parrish and swished the eventual game-winning shot.
“Jermaine made a good pass and I just hit the shot,” McBirth said.
After a timeout, the Panthers (13-10) threw an errant baseball pass that went out of bounds at the other end of the floor to seal the Bulldogs’ victory.
New Albany coach Jim Shannon decided not to take a timeout before McBirth’s game-winner, as he let his players work the offense.
“I was just going to let them play it out,” Shannon said.
McBirth was the difference-maker for the Bulldogs, scoring a team-high 17 points off the bench. He also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
“He played great tonight. He was the difference in the game,” Shannon said. “We’re just happy to be playing in the championship.”
Parrish ended up with 16 points and four assists. New Albany senior Josh Rogers also found his shooting stroke, scoring 15 points. Rogers hit a pair of 3-pointers and was 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs played without senior center Anthony Edwards, who was suspended for the rest of the sectional on Friday for violating team rules.
JEFFERSONVILLE-BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE
The Red Devils (21-3) bolted out to a 16-2 lead and were up 40-19 at halftime. Jeff then started the second half on a 9-3 run to go up 49-22 midway through the third quarter.
“We wanted to set the tone early,” Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said.
Jeff junior Keenan Williams had another solid game with a game-high 22 points along with four assists. Williams shot 8-of-11 from the field and 4-of-4 at the stripe.
Red Devil junior Drew Ellis also had a solid game with 21 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Ellis scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and made 14-of-17 free throw for the game.
“Keenan does a good job for us,” Gilbert said. “Drew stepped up and made some big shots.”
Jeff senior Darryl Baker had 13 points as he battled foul trouble throughout the second half. The Indiana All-Star candidate picked up his fourth foul early in the third and sat out the majority of the half.
“Darryl should be rested for [tonight],” Gilbert said. “We made some silly fouls, but we played through it.”
Jeff’s Myles Harvey had nine points and three assisted. The Red Devils will try to win their second straight sectional title tonight and their third in the last four years.