Jeffersonville just might be small enough to slay the giant.
If that sounds backward, then view the glass as half full. The Red Devils lack size, but they have speed. They lack star power, but they are ready to introduce a couple of new names to the Southern Indiana landscape.
Fear is not a member of the roster.
“It’s a different group but exciting group,” second-year coach Mike Warren said. “I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”
How good? The Devils lost post presence Haley Vogen (11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds) and floor leader Shae Hines (12.5 points, 3.5 assists). Both were key parts of last year’s 17-6 run that ended in the sectional final.
“You don’t replace them,” Warren said. “We’re going to be different. Shae was really our leader. Haley was a 6-1, left-handed post player and you don’t see a ton of those. But we’ll be much more athletic and quicker. We’ll be smaller, so rebounding is a concern for us. But I think our athleticism will make up for some of that.”
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The returning cast will center on junior guard Taylor Sykes (8.7), senior forward Emily Gray (6.2) and senior point guard Chelsea Lewis (2.7). Warren believes Sykes “is outstanding,” he said. “She’s improved tremendously.” He will lobby for her to be considered for a spot on the Junior All-Star team.
After that, the Devils have floor experience but little in the way of offensive punch. The X factor is freshman Jacinta Gibson, who will step immediately into the starting lineup.
Somebody will have to score.
“I wonder,” Warren said. “We have a lot of girls who can score, but not many have done it when the lights come on at 7:30. I’m counting on them to do it, I think they’re going to do it, but until we go out there and see you can’t really be sure.
“We have experience, but when you add it up there’s not a whole lot of points there. But we’re very capable. I hope what I’ve seen in the summer and in practice shows up.”
Jeffersonville’s 800-pound gorilla in the room is Bedford North Lawrence. The top-ranked Stars thumped the Devils twice, by nearly identical scores, last season and the Devils have a 33-point gap to close to challenge the reigning champs. That doesn’t mean the Devils are conceding anything.
“I’m looking forward to getting up and down the court,” Gray said. “I think we have tons of athletes, so that’s our advantage. Hopefully we’ll win the sectional title. That’s our goal.”
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Jeffersonville’s schedule has been toughened. In addition to BNL, the Devils will also tangle with Bloomington South before Thanksgiving, then compete in the loaded Columbus North Invitational over the Christmas break. That field includes No.5 Penn (last year’ state runner-up), No.4 Homestead, No.7 Mooresville, No.10 Pike and No.3 Columbus North with star Ali Patberg, one of the early frontrunners for Miss Basketball.
“At the end, we just need to play our hearts out,” Lewis said. “We have to go hard and take it to them.”
Justin Sokeland can be reached at (502) 582-4059.