It was a statement made in the ultimate statement game.

Jeffersonville basketball made its official return to prominence on Friday night with a third quarter so thorough that it took all of the suspense out of Indiana's top rivalry and had some of the sellout crowd finding the fastest way to the car to beat the proverbial traffic.

Seven wins in the first eight games were enough to get Planet Red Devil buzzing about the hoops team again, but just about everyone associated with the program knew all the good will gained and all the momentum of the fast start was 32 minutes away from falling by the wayside if Jeff had fallen to New Albany.

However, Friday night's 68-47 display should have every Jeff fan walking around with a puffy chest Saturday morning. They know now that the program is back. They know now that they are king of the hill on the local landscape.

In what looked like a another nip-and-tuck nailbiter between the longtime rivals, Jeff unleashed the fury after halftime. Turning a two-point cushion at intermission into a a 20-point mattress with a stifling defense that held the Bulldogs to just three field goals in eight minutes.

After a basket by Derick Hobbs knotted the game at 29 at the 7:43 mark, the Dogs wouldn't hit another shot from the field until 2:05 showed on the clock, and by that time Jeff had forged ahead 47-32.

Antonio Ballard scored on some dunks, Jeremy Kendle threw one down as well. Reserve forward Daniel Farmer stepped in and surprised most of the 4,200 fans — and maybe even himself — with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Everything Jeff tried in the second 16 minutes seemed to work, and the lead just grew and grew with every passing second.

Now Jeff must answer a new challenge. While it spent the first nine games of the season proving itself after last season, it must now handle prosperity.

A top-10 spot in the state rankings surely awaits the Devils soon, as does controlling their own destiny in a race to win the Hoosier Hills Conference. If the schedule breaks right the rest of the way, Jeff could be looking at an 18- or 19-win season.

Jeff is now the sure favorite to win the Class 4A Seymour Sectional, and fans may even be confident enough to start thinking about winning regional again.

Four quarters Friday served as Jeff's statement. Now the rest of the season the team gets to back up its talk.

With more performances like the last one, it could keep talking for a long, long time.

Contact Mike Hutsell at mhutsell@news-tribune.net.

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