When Thursday night began, Jeffersonville was looking eye-to-eye with Floyd Central – and up at the rest of the Hoosier Hills Conference. That’s not where the Red Devils were projected to be when the girls’ basketball season started.
The Red Devils (4-3, 1-2) ended a two-game skid with a 57-41 victory over the Highlanders at Johnson Arena. Taylor Sykes scored 16 points while Nycia Ford provided a spark off the bench with 9 points and 7 rebounds as Jeffersonville started the grueling climb back toward the top.
They might not get all the way to the peak, because that’s where two-time defending state champion Bedford North Lawrence resides. But Jeffersonville was preseason picked as second-best among the rest, and the Devils had not measured up.
The win over the Highlanders (3-4, 0-3) certainly was the necessary beginning. Jeffersonville could take an even larger leap up the food chain with a win over Class 3-A No.11 Madison on Friday night.
“We believed we were preseason No.2 in the conference,” Jeffersonville coach Mike Warren said. “Our play hasn’t backed up any of the stuff that was supposed to be who we were. So when you’re 0-2, I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
Jeff got it with a sticky defense that forced 23 turnovers, with an offense that was much more productive than the meager 44 points it was averaging, and with bench play from Ford and Jhala Henry (7 points). The Devils also withstood a sparkling one-player performance by Floyd star Madison Kaiser, who had 25 points before fouling out.
“We talked about her for the last two days, then we forgot who she was,” Warren said. “She battles every night. If every team had kids like that, we’d all be better coaches.”
Kaiser had 16 in the first half and kept Floyd within range. But every time she exited to protect against foul trouble, the Highlanders got stagnant and labored to even create shot opportunities.
Floyd, plagued by the turnovers, didn’t get a shot off in the second quarter until the 4:15 mark, and went over four minutes to start the third without an attempt. And the first one in the second half was blocked.
Kaiser had two impressive spurts. She scored 10 straight Floyd points in the second quarter to erase Jeff’s 13-point lead, and she added 9 of Floyd’s first 11 in the fourth. When she fouled out, Floyd’s chances sat with her.
“She’s a warrior,” Floyd coach Kirk Hamsley said. “We know she needs help. We’re doing the best we can. She plays her heart out. We have to find some other scorers. She’s a special kid.”
Sykes did all her damage in the first three quarters before she fouled out with 5:25 left. Ford was a difference maker in the paint.
“When she’s locked in and clicking, she does a great job,” Warren said. “For a spell, she really carried us. With her rebounding and presence, when she plays, people tend to follow her.”
Catera Stevenson also had 9 points for the Devils.
Justin Sokeland can be reached at (502) 582-4059.
Floyd Central 10 10 9 12 – 41
Jeffersonville 15 16 14 12 – 57
Floyd Central (3-4) – Madison Kaiser 25, Brianna Roth 6, Maddie Probus 3, Katlyn Bierman 4, Kristen Burger 1, Katie Bruno 2
Jeffersonville (4-3) – Hailey Lacy 4, Emily Gray 5, Chelsea Lewis 2, Taylor Sykes 16, Catera Stevenson 9, Nycia Ford 9, Jlaha Henry 7, Danielle Overton 1, Jaelyn Lee 2, Asia Williams 2.
3-pointers – Kaiser 1, Sykes 1, Stevenson 1, Henry 1