Redemption drove Jeffersonville to a Class 4-A boys’ basketball regional championship Saturday night.
Keenan Williams, after serving a one-game suspension during the afternoon semifinal victory over Evansville Harrison, scored 24 points and senior star Darryl Baker added 20 as the No. 13 Red Devils raced past Franklin Central 85-69.
Jeffersonville (24-3) advanced to next week’s one-game semistate against No. 7 Cathedral (23-5), which beat No. 5 Pike 62-57 in the Southport Regional. The IHSAA will announce the site (either Seymour or Richmond) today.
The Red Devils don’t care where they play. After losing last year’s regional semifinal to Bloomington South when a delay game backfired, and after Williams had to rely on his teammates to carry him after his ejection from this year’s sectional final, they were thrilled simply to come through unscathed.
“It was a journey,” sophomore guard Myles Harvey said.
The memory of last year’s tearful bus ride home spurred Harvey, who scored 15 points. Jacquari Chandler, who didn’t earn much mention on the Franklin Central scouting report, scored 17 and did the most damage during Jeff’s fourth-quarter breakaway.
The Red Devils’ speed and tempo finally wore down the Flashes (12-11), whose mediocre record masked their danger level. They whipped to a five-point lead early in the third quarter, but Jeff’s trapping and transition game started to pay off. The Devils finally broke loose with a 10-1 run to lead 68-56 midway through the fourth, and they closed with an 11-2 spurt to cap the program’s 18th regional title.
“That was a great win,” coach Chad Gilbert said. “The kids stepped up and did their thing. We showed some guts and won the game. Our guys have battled all year. We’re in the final four. We’ve got five down, two to go.”
They took turns fending off the Flashes. Williams started with 10 first-quarter points. Harvey hit three third-quarter shots to erase Franklin Central’s last lead. Chandler streaked to four layups in the fourth quarter, and Baker awoke from a quiet first half (one basket) with a more typical performance in the second half, when Jeff erupted for 54 points.
“We just played great team ball tonight,” Baker said.
“Most people think this team is just Darryl,” Harvey said. “He has 11 other brothers with him.”
Jacob Malone paced Franklin Central with 20 points before fouling out. Forrester Sims and Jalen Bell had 14 points apiece.
* Jeffersonville 73, Evansville Harrison 62: Drew Ellis scored a career-high 29 points, including a 19-point explosion in the second quarter, as the Devils avenged a 73-70 home setback to the No. 4 Warriors (22-2) on Feb. 2.
Baker had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Harvey scored 14 second-half points. But the difference was Ellis, who hit five 3-pointers and lit the fuse. He scored 22 of Jeff’s last 24 points in the first half.
“He played the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Harrison coach Bryan Speer said. “He was just really hungry and probably felt like he needed to give his team a lift.”
“You feel like you’re untouchable, invincible,” Ellis said. “You can’t miss. You just want the ball more and more.”
* Franklin Central 69, Columbus North 54: The Flashes dashed to a 15-0 lead en route to a stunning upset of the No. 3 Bull Dogs (23-2), who won the regular-season game 76-65. Sims scored 21, Jacob Malone 15 and Jake Barras 14 for the Flashes, who ended North’s 19-game winning streak.