By KEVIN HARRIS
JEFFERSONVILLE – Jeffersonville captured its first outright Hoosier Hills Conference championship since the Red Devils’ 2011 state championship season Friday night at Johnson Arena, defeating archrival New Albany 41-39.
It was the first time Jeff (14-7, 7-0 HHC) has finished with an undefeated conference record since its outright HHC crown in 2009. The Red Devils clinched a share of the HHC championship in last Tuesday’s 65-61 overtime victory at Seymour.
“We didn’t have any intentions of sharing it,” said fourth-year Jeff head coach Mike Warren, who won his first league crown at the Red Devils’ helm. “We were just going to find a way to win it outright.”
As for the Bulldogs (14-6, 4-2), their hopes of winning a piece of the conference title came to an end. New Albany has not won at least a share of the HHC title since 2005.
“I didn’t think anybody would go undefeated this year in the conference and they did. They made it happen. Congratulations to them for that,” Bulldogs’ head coach Tammy Geron said.
Jeff persevered to the conference title by surviving a wild fourth quarter. With the Bulldogs up 36-35 with 4:17 left in regulation, they extended their lead to four thanks to a short bank shot by junior Kelsy Taylor and a free throw by senior Marissa Jones.
But the Red Devils held New Albany scoreless in the final 2 minutes and 50 seconds of the game, and scored the contest’s final six points, all on free throws.
Freshman Nan Garcia made a pair of foul shots at the 2:24 mark to pull Jeff within two at 39-37. With 1:31 left, Red Devil junior Jacinta Gibson cut the deficit to one by making the front end of a two-shot situation.
With 31.8 seconds remaining, Bulldog senior forward Chyna Anthony fouled Jeff senior guard Jhala Henry during a 3-point attempt. Henry made the first two free throws of a three-shot situation to put the Red Devils up one at 40-39.
Henry misfired on the third foul shot, but teammate Jaylynn Brown got the rebound and was fouled by New Albany guard Alayasia Douglas. Brown made 1-of-2 free throws to give Jeff a two-point advantage with 26.6 ticks left. The game ended with Jones missing a desperation 3-point try from half-court.
“We did a much better job of attacking the basket in the fourth quarter,” Warren said. “Everybody still had a sense that we were going to figure this thing out one way or another. It’s just a different confidence that these kids have. They just don’t quit.”
Gibson scored a game-high 17 points, while Garcia had nine. Anthony led the Bulldogs with 13 points, followed by fellow senior Earlean Davis with nine.
“The difference is they go 10 (players) deep and we go seven,” Geron said. “It was a good ballgame. I thought both teams just played hard. They’re just really good at packing in (their defense). I thought they did a nice job tonight. They’re just a better basketball team.”
The rivals could play each other again in a couple of weeks at the Class 4A Floyd Central Sectional. For that happen, they would each have to advance to the championship game on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Jeff will visit Scottsburg (13-8) at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. New Albany will travel to Seymour (14-6, 3-2) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
JEFFERSONVILLE 41, NEW ALBANY 39
New Albany 12 5 12 10-39
Jeff 13 8 8 12-41
New Albany (14-6, 4-2 Hoosier Hills Conference): Chyna Anthony 13, Earlean Davis 9, Kelsy Taylor 7, Julyen Condra 5, Marissa Jones 4, Alayasia Douglas 1, Savanna Pinkston 0.
Jeff (14-7, 7-0): Jacinta Gibson 17, Nan Garcia 9, Jhala Henry 6, Jaylynn Brown 5, Jaelyn Lee 3, Britney Epperson 1, Chelsea Gibson 0, Tori Handley 0, Kelsie James 0.3-point field goals: New Albany 2 (Condra 1, Davis 1); Jeff 3 (Garcia 1, J. Gibson 1, Henry 1).