By KEVIN HARRIS
CLARKSVILLE – If there was one word to describe Jeffersonville’s play this past weekend, it was inconsistency.
That was evident Saturday night in the Red Devils’ 53-50 loss to Class 2A No. 3 Providence at the Larkin Center.
The Pioneers (11-1) bolted out to a 13-2 lead at the 3:11 mark in the first quarter and led by as many as 13 points during the first three periods. Jeff made a rally in the fourth quarter, outscoring Providence 24-15 in the stanza. But Red Devil guard Gabe Gallahar missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the final buzzer as the Pioneers defeated Jeff for the first time since 2008.
On Friday night, Jeff (8-6) got off to a fast start against visiting Floyd Central, leading 13-2 near the midway point of the first quarter. But the Red Devils scored just 36 points after that and lost to the Highlanders 55-49.
“We faced the same thing that we faced (Friday) night. That was intensity-wise we didn’t play with that type of attacking effort on the defensive end, and we didn’t play that way offensively,” Jeff head coach Joe Luce said. “We’re not a full-court basketball team. We’re not built that way. Consequently, we just came out slow and put ourselves behind.”
Providence played a zone defense where it had its guards sagging back toward the basket. Jeff struggled to figure out what to do with the defense during the first three quarters.
“We had to keep them out of the paint and not let it become an inside-out game,” Pioneers’ head coach Andrew Grantz said. “Jeff is so good at penetrating and creating inside-out play. When their guards get into the lane and they can’t finish or they have to kick the ball out, then they’ve got shooters.”
As far as his team’s comeback effort in the final period Saturday, Luce felt that his players finally got energized and it showed offensively. The Devils made nine of their 12 field-goal attempts in the fourth.
“I think there was some energy that was finally found by our players,” Luce said. “They began to play with a lot different speed in the half-court offensively. They attacked the ball and they moved the ball. They made shots and that’s because they passed the ball and moved the ball. When that happens, good things are going to happen for your team.”
Grantz said the Pioneers’ 13-2 start was crucial in them establishing the tempo they wanted to play for most of the game.
“That was huge. That’s a credit to the kids for being locked in and executing the scouting report. They did a fantastic job,” Grantz said. “When you’re able to get off to a start like that, it puts you in such an advantage, especially at home. What it really did was allow us to control the tempo for the rest of the game.”
Providence senior guard Eli Coker tallied a game-high 15 points, while teammate Juston Betz had 13. Two Red Devils scored in double figures. Bailey Falkenstein had 14 points and Gerrin Moore poured in 11.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Coker - The senior was one of the main Pioneers in executing their half-court offense. Coker had 11 points in the first half.
“Eli is one of the best athletes in the program right now,” Grantz said. “He’s a great ballhandler and very skilled. We’ve been trying to utilize him getting to the rim and using his athleticism.”
KEY SEQUENCE: The Pioneers’ 13-2 start set the tone for the entire game as they made the contest a half-court affair for the most part. Providence led the whole way and the game was never tied.
There were a couple of honorable-mention sequences. After pulling within 38-32 with 5:08 left in the fourth, Providence scored six straight points to get its lead back up to six. That spurt included Coker making a bucket after he awkwardly hung on the rim during a shot attempt and somehow came up with the rebound. Luce argued for a traveling call and received a technical foul, which resulted in Betz hitting two free throws.
The other honorable-mention sequence was the Pioneers hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the final 56.6 seconds to hold off the Devils.
UNSUNG HERO: Alex Judd, Providence – The senior forward scored nine points and helped the Pioneers execute their game plan offensively and defensively.
WHAT BOTH TEAMS DID WELL: Simply put, the Pioneers just played their game throughout the contest. Their great start helped them establish their style. The fourth quarter was Jeff’s lone bright spot as it finally got its offense going.
AREAS OF CONCERN FOR BOTH TEAMS: The Pioneers did miss some free throws in the fourth that would have made the final seconds less stressful for them. Providence shot 13-of-20 at the stripe in the fourth. Jeff needs to be more consistent on offense.
NEXT GAMES FOR BOTH TEAMS: Jeff at Columbus East, next Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Providence at Crawford County, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
PROVIDENCE 53, JEFFERSONVILLE 50
Jeff 7 8 11 24-50
Providence 15 11 12 15-53
Jeff (8-6): Bailey Falkenstein 14, Gerrin Moore 11, Mike Minton 7, Joe LaGrange 6, Jacob Jones 5, Tre Coleman 4, Cam Northern 2, Gabe Gallahar 1.
Providence (11-1): Eli Coker 15, Juston Betz 13, Alex Judd 9, Cullen Ebert 6, Sam Conrad 4, Nick Boesing 2, Dawson Mitchell 2, Landon Sprigler 2, Sean Morris 0.
3-point field goals: Jeff 5 (Falkenstein 2, LaGrange 1, Minton 1, Moore 1); Providence 5 (Betz 3, Conrad 1, Ebert 1).
Rebounds: Jeff 22 (Falkenstein 5); Providence 18 (Mitchell 7).
Free throws: Jeff 4-10, Providence 18-26.
Turnovers: Jeff 10, Providence 8.
Total fouls: Jeff 20, Providence 12.
Fouled out: Jeff – Coleman, Minton.Technical fouls: Jeff bench.