The “home” fires have been burning for the Red Devils in the IHSAA boys’ basketball state tournament.
For the third straight week and sixth consecutive tournament game, No. 13 Jeffersonville will return to Seymour’s Barney Scott Gymnasium when it meets No. 7 Cathedral (24-5) in the Class 4-A semistate on Saturday evening. The winner will face either No. 1 Carmel (23-2) or Merrillville (22-3) in the state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 23.
Jeffersonville (24-3), if it can win its first semistate title since 1995, would probably want to play the championship game in Seymour. The Devils are 50-15 there in their tournament history and they’ve won 10 straight tournament games in the gym since losing to New Albany in the 2009 sectional final.
The vast arena, the third-largest high school gym in the nation with a seating capacity of 8,110, has been Jeff’s playground. The Devils have averaged 78.2 points per game and won by an average of 18.4 points per game this postseason.
“That’s definitely to our advantage,” Jeff coach Chad Gilbert said. “We need to make sure we make the most of it.”
Cathedral will not be intimidated. The Irish have faced the best teams inside Indiana’s borders and beyond (including Louisville Ballard and Detroit Romulus). They feature Indiana University signee Collin Hartman and sophomore Jalen Coleman, a highly coveted recruiting target. No matter where the game is played, Cathedral has the firepower.
“To be in the final four, you know you have to be good,” Gilbert said. “Everybody here is tested.”
Cathedral has been, both on the court and off. The Irish own an 18-game winning streak, despite losing starters Mo Evans (a senior guard who signed with IPFW) and Justin Baker in February. They were suspended indefinitely for unspecified violations of team rules. They played eight games without Hartman, who suffered a broken left wrist before the season.
“We’ve found a good recipe for success,” Cathedral coach Andy Fagan said. “Now we just need to stay that course.”
The recipe starts with Coleman, a 6-foot-2 guard and the leading scorer at 14.5. But the main ingredient is the 6-6 Hartman, a versatile scorer (12.1), shooter (40 3-pointers) and rebounder (5.1) who reminds Gilbert of Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki.
Style does not matter. The Irish are equipped to face Jeff’s up-tempo pressure or slog out a halfcourt grinder. The secret? They can shoot. The Irish average hitting 7 3-pointers per game and take 40 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
Jeffersonville is smaller across the board, but still lethal with star Darryl Baker (23.9), junior Keenan Williams (13.7) and junior Drew Ellis (12.7). Williams has averaged 23.4 over the past five games. But scoring — Jeff is 11th in the state at 73.8 points per game — isn’t Gilbert’s primary concern.
“We have to rebound,” he said. “And we have to make every possession count. We can’t get caught up in the moment or be afraid to succeed.”
Cathedral owns the second-best Sagarin rating (just 0.01 behind Carmel).