JEFFERSONVILLE — The formula is in place for coach Mike Warren, who has a solid 98-50 record in six seasons — to celebrate his first sectional title at the helm of the Jeffersonville girls’ basketball program.
Having one of the top players in the state in Penn State-bound Nan Garcia is a key reason for optimism. Garcia is only 1/3 of a senior trio of leaders that he’ll lean on to end the program’s postseason drought. The Red Devils last sectional title was during a state championship run in 2011.
Garcia, point guard Kelsie James and wing Kiersten Poor make up a strong leadership team, Warren said.
“They’re all very good leaders in their own way but they all have very different personalities. It works very well for this group,” Warren said. “Kelsie’s vocal and gets after them. Nan has proven she’s a very good player so she’s the pat-on-the-back [leader]. Kiersten is lead by example. She shows up every day and works her butt off. She’s becoming more vocal. They’re good kids, they’re good basketball players and just have personalities that mix as far as leadership styles.”
The Red Devils open the season Wednesday at Austin and are ranked No. 11 in the preseason Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Top 20 poll.
"We want to get that sectional this year," Poor said, adding that leadership is especially important this season with a large contingent of freshmen and sophomores on the roster. "We're trying to get the freshmen to not play scared and be ready to play at the varsity level."
James, Jeff’s feisty defensive leader, has the personality to direct the team at point guard.
“Kelsie’s kind of the mean one,” Garcia laughed. “I’m not much of a talking leader. I show how it’s done. I do what I have to do, I score when I have to score.”
James, who will play for IU Kokomo next year, has some newcomers to direct in addition to the team’s four returning starters. Four freshmen — Sophia Reese, Tatum McFarland, Cadence Singleton and Brooklyn Carter — are on the varsity roster.
“My goals individually are just be better as a person a and teach these kids the meaning of high school basketball and get them ready for when we leave,” James said.
Warren is hopeful the newcomers can provide a boost this season as well.
“We’ve got a lot of sophomores and a lot of freshmen. I know they’re going to be good players, hopefully sooner rather than later. As far as pin-pointing one or two of them, I don’t think we’re ready to do that yet,” Warren said.
He is ready to see how the veterans will improve.
Garcia, who averaged 19.9 points and 9 rebounds, shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range last season could be poised to take another step forward as a scorer. Warren needs more consistency from second and third scoring options. Poor, who averaged 8.7 points last season, and Gibson are two candidates he’d like to see more consistent production from.
“For us to be really good, we’re going to have to get a consistent second scorer and then a fairly consistent third scorer. When you have a team where three kids are scoring it, those are your good teams,” Warren said. “Kiersten’s gonna score the ball but it’s just being more consistent. Kelsie will up her points a little bit but it’s finding that third scorer, whether that’s Alexis Gibson or somebody else that gets upwards toward 10 and they’re doing it consistently. Gibson’s extremely talented, she’s getting some college looks so we’re expecting a lot out of her.”
The Red Devils hope to get the job done when the postseason arrives.
“That sectional is something we haven’t been able to get done — I haven’t been able to get done in my time here — so our kids put a lot of thought into that,” Warren said. “My three seniors, they’ve set out since the beginning of the year. If we can get through that sectional, the southern part fo the state is pretty wide open. Whoever gets through that sectional has a chance to make a little run. Why not be us this year?”