The significance of Jeffersonville’s renowned rivalry with New Albany has never been lost on junior guard Bailey Falkenstein.
An area native and one of six family members to attend Jeffersonville and play basketball, among other sports, Falkenstein was born with the urge to beat the Bulldogs – made possible by the lengthy list of Red Devils before him.
Bailey’s father, Brent, was a standout in the 1980s along with his uncle, P.K., and his cousin Kasey won a state title with the Red Devils’ girls program in 2011. Bailey’s grandfather and cousin, Kooper, played as well.
The importance of the rivalry, Bailey said, was stressed early and often.
“When I was younger, me and my dad would go shoot,” Falkenstein said. “He would always put me on the free-throw line and say, ‘All right, this is the sectional championship against New Albany. Five-thousand people in the arena.’ I’d have to make them or I’d have to run, so yeah, from a young age, it’s been implanted that this is a big rivalry. It’s something to be excited about.”
Ever since he can remember, memories of Red Devil standouts Jeremy Kendle, Antonio Ballard, Keegan Clark and Darryl Baker have danced in his head. Now, though, Falkenstein is a key cog for the Red Devils (7-3, 2-0 Hoosier Hills) ahead of another rivalry matchup against New Albany (7-2, 1-0 HHC) Friday at 7:30 p.m. inside Johnson Arena.
Friday’s meeting marks the 158th between New Albany and Jeffersonville. The all-time series, though not agreed upon, is most widely considered 81-76 in favor of the Bulldogs. New Albany has won the past four meetings, but the Red Devils are 31-29 all-time in postseason play.
This season’s Jeffersonville squad looks to Falkenstein and its cast of juniors to help assume leadership roles alongside seniors Mike Minton and Cam Northern, the natural “quarterback” of the team, per coach Joe Luce. Falkenstein, who saw varsity minutes as a freshman, said he can relate with some of the team’s younger contributors.
“These freshmen and sophomores, I was in their position a year and two years ago,” Falkenstein said. “I know exactly what they’re feeling like. I just want them to know how big this game is. It’s unbelievable.”
Three underclassmen in particular – sophomore guard Joe LaGrange, freshman point Jacob Jones and freshman forward Tre Coleman – have seen ample playing time for the Red Devils this season. Sharpshooters LaGrange and Jones start alongside Falkenstein, Minton and junior forward Gerrin Moore, and Coleman adds instant energy off the bench.
LaGrange, Jones and Coleman, despite their age, have been dubbed “old souls” by Luce. Like Falkenstein, the trio has been shaped by each player’s basketball pedigree. Coleman and Jones had standout older siblings, and LaGrange’s father is a coach.
Many of the Red Devils’ “old souls” get their first taste of the Jeffersonville-New Albany rivalry on Friday, as Luce did a season ago. Now 22-15 in his second year with Jeffersonville, Luce – who came from Richmond and before then coached at Marion, both in the North Central Conference – said the game was an “eye-opener.”
“It was definitely a much more impactful game than I had imagined,” Luce said. “I’ve been a part of lots of great rivalries, some of the traditional powerhouse basketball schools that I’ve been at in the (North Central) conference. To be honest with you, everything was secondary to the game last year. It was a big-time event. Both towns came out. I’m looking forward to the same thing this year.”
With pre-sale ticket lines spewing into the parking lot outside Johnson Arena on Wednesday afternoon, a sellout is expected at Jeffersonville on Friday. Rivalry emotions are high yet again in Southern Indiana. For Falkenstein, though, it’s just another day in the driveway with dad.
“New Albany is a very good team, but I feel very confident in our team,” he said.