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January 24, 2013

GREG'S PICKS: Jeff moving closer to defending HHC crown

Red Devils two victories away from repeating as conference champs

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Jeffersonville is two wins from clinching the Hoosier Hills Conference for the second straight season, starting tonight at Bedford North Lawrence.

A win over the Stars on Friday will virtually guarantee a league title for the Red Devils. Jennings County is still unbeaten in conference play, as well. But as well as they’ve played, it’s hard to imagine the Panthers running the table with the three best teams still on their schedule.

Although it pales next to winning a sectional title, Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said winning the HHC is a big deal for the program.

“The Hoosier Hills Conference championship is important to us because of the great teams, players and coaches involved in each of the programs,” he said. “We feel it is one of the strongest conferences in the state of Indiana.”

Of course, beating the Stars is the first order of business. Although BNL is not as strong as it has been of late at 6-8 overall and 2-2 in the HHC, winning in Bedford is always a challenge.

“Bedford is an extremely formidable opponent,” Gilbert said. “[BNL coach] Jamie [Hudson] does a great job with his team. They will come out ready and play hard-nosed basketball.”

Leading the Devils will be Darryl Baker, who continues to raise his level of play. Baker scored 37 points — one off his career-high — in last Saturday’s crucial overtime win over Columbus East.

Although it appears to be a logistical longshot, Mr. Basketball talk is starting to surround Baker. Gilbert believes it’s warranted.

“Look at his stats,” Gilbert said. “He understands the game and makes his teammates better. He would score 50 for a win or two for a win. It doesn’t matter in his mind, as long as the team wins. He is a pleasure to coach and he is as good as any player that I have ever seen.”

Baker hasn’t gotten the Red Devils to 12-2 by himself. At different times, several different Red Devils have stepped up and contributed to victories.

“Again look at our stats,” Gilbert said. “We shoot the ball extremely well and have shot it well for the last two years. We shoot the ball well because of three things: we practice game shots, we turn down good shots for great shots, and finally, we have very coachable kids who will do what’s necessary for a win. We don’t have role players on our team — we have ‘win’ players. [I’ve been] very proud of their effort.”

With a win over BNL on Friday, the Devils would be one win away from going unbeaten in league play for the second straight season. Jennings County will visit Jeffersonville on Thursday, Feb. 7 in both teams’ HHC finale.

If the Devils can go unbeaten in the HHC, it would be the first time in the program’s history to go without a loss in back-to-back seasons.

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