With most of his usual friends fouled out, Jeffersonville’s Kortell White was one of the last Red Devils standing. With the game on the line, he was also the calmest.
White hit six overtime free throws as the Devils took control of the Hoosier Hills Conference race with an 83-79 victory at Columbus East on Saturday night. Darryl Baker scored 37 points as Class 4-A No. 13 Jeffersonville (12-2) overcame major foul problems to remain unbeaten after five league games.
With four starters already fouled out and the outcome hanging in the balance, White had to deliver. He never missed. All six free throws were crucial, giving Jeff a two-possession lead each time, but none were bigger than the pair he delivered with 8.8 seconds left.
“We practice free throws every day, so there was no pressure at all,” he said. “I felt like I had to step up.”
White had 13 points and didn’t miss a shot of any kind. Keenan Williams had four overtime points to finish with 12, and Drew Ellis hit two huge 3-pointers at the end of regulation en route to 10 points.
Then there was Baker, who did everything else. He scored 24 points after halftime, including 14 in a frantic fourth quarter, and came up one shy of his career high. He shook off a sluggish start, missing his first four shots before erupting.
“Baker is just a very good player,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “He’s got to be considered one of the best players in Southern Indiana, if not the state as well. The kid has some savvy.”
East (8-2, 4-1) forced the overtime with an unlikely hero. Ellis’ two 3-pointers, the latter a corner bomb for a 71-68 lead with 14 seconds left in regulation, put the Olympians in desperation mode, but reserve Dakota Thompson rescued them.
Jeff coach Chad Gilbert considered fouling rather than allow a 3-pointer to be launched, but he decided 14 seconds was too long to play that cat-and-mouse strategy. Thompson’s three from the corner, his only basket, swished at 0:05.
“Dakota is a shooter,” Chitty said. “You can put him in the freezer, bring him out and he’ll knock it down.”
The dramatic ending, with clutch plays on both sides, was set up by Jeff’s impressive third quarter and East’s answer. Down 35-32 at halftime, the Devils came out with a 15-2 run, with Baker scoring eight and White adding a three-point play.
But Nate Rich countered with two of his five 3-pointers, cutting Jeff’s lead to 51-49.
Baker took over from there — and he had to, because Myles Harvey fouled out in regulation and Ellis and Jacquari Chandler followed him in overtime. Baker also fouled out with 11.1 seconds left after hitting two free throws for a 79-76 lead. But East’s Zach Martindale hit only one free throw after Baker’s final foul, and White’s rebound forced East to whack him. He made the Olympians pay.
“That’s what seniors do,” Gilbert said. “That’s mature free throws, and he stepped up and hit some big ones. We have kids that are winners.”
Rich scored 17 points for East. Bryce Lienhoop had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Martindale added 14 points. East made its living at the line, hitting 29 of 37, but six third-quarter turnovers against Jeff’s press were huge.
“We didn’t answer the bell, and I think we’re kicking ourselves for that right now,” Chitty said.
Jeff, the defending league champion, now controls its destiny in the race. Jennings County is 4-0 in league play but has a tough weekend against East and New Albany (Feb. 1-2) to survive in order to set up a showdown at Jeff on Feb. 7.
Jeffersonville (12-2) – Williams 12, Ellis 10, Chandler 7, Baker 37, White 13, Harvey 4.
Columbus East (8-2) – Martindale 14, Harris 8, Lienhoop 14, Rich 17, Taylor 11, Thompson 3, Umphress 6, Jensen 4, Shea 2.
3-point goals – Ellis 2, Baker 2, Rich 5, Harris 1, Thompson 1, Taylor 1.