Postseason play is right around the corner for girls hoops in Indiana, but two area programs are set to soak up a little extra rest and relaxation as sectional play commences at the end of the month.
The IHSAA, by way of its random draw, announced pairings for the 2017 girls basketball state tournament Sunday evening, with New Albany (12-5, 3-1 Hoosier Hills) and Jeffersonville (12-7, 4-0 HHC) both nabbing byes to the semifinal round in Class 4A Sectional 15.
The Bulldogs will await the winner of Jennings County (5-13, 1-5 HHC) and Floyd Central (11-9, 1-5 HHC) in the top half of the bracket, and the Red Devils will meet defending champ Bedford North Lawrence (14-4, 6-1 HHC) or Seymour (14-5, 4-1 HHC) in the bottom half.
Sectional play in Indiana begins on Tuesday, Jan. 31, with semifinal play slated for Friday, Feb. 3 before the championship round that Saturday evening. Official times will be released at a later date.
As it stands, Jeffersonville is currently 3-0 in games played against sectional opponents this season to go along with its perfect 4-0 mark in conference play. The Red Devils have won four of their past five games. BNL and Seymour are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in league standings behind Jeffersonville, but all things considered, coach Michael Warren said the Red Devils welcome the first-round bye.
“I like the bye,” Warren said. “I know people are on the fence as far as whether they like the bye or not. I tend to prefer the bye, because I like the preparation aspect. It gives us a couple extra days to prepare ourselves. … Having three of probably the four best teams in the sectional on one side, obviously, is going to be tough.”
The Bulldogs are currently No. 4 in league standings and conclude the regular season with a home matchup against Columbus East (12-7, 1-2 HHC) and road meetings with Jeffersonville and Seymour, sandwiched in between a non-conference game against Charlestown (10-9, 4-4 Mid-Southern).
With a grueling finish to the regular season on tap, New Albany coach Tammy Geron echoed Warren’s assessment of the opening-round bye.
“It’s going to be a tough sectional,” Geron said. “The draw is a big piece of it. To get a bye sometimes plays in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think for us, this year, it gives us time to refresh ourselves. Five of our last six games are conference games, so it’ll give us an opportunity to get some rest and get our feet back underneath us before we head into the semifinals on Friday.”
New Albany has won two straight games by an average of 29.5 points. Senior point guard Marissa Jones has helped orchestrate the Bulldogs’ wide margin of victory as of late behind her assist totals. She dished out 15 assists in New Albany’s win over Floyd Central on Jan. 7. She followed that up with 18 points and 14 helpers against Madison on Thursday.
“I think the other side of that is we’re just playing better,” Geron said. “Her teammates, they’re locked-in now to where they’re finishing shots more and doing a much better job of taking high-quality shots within our offense. I think that’s been a big piece of her assist numbers as well.
“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been a totally different team. We’re just very focused every day. These guys have a goal to finish strong and go win sectionals.”
Jeffersonville travels to Seymour on Tuesday before its rivalry bout versus New Albany on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Red Devils then close out the regular season at Scottsburg (12-7, 6-2 MSC) and at home against Castle. The ping-pong balls worked in the Red Devils’ favor Sunday night, but for Warren – and Geron’s Bulldogs – one game at a time is the mantra.
“Right now, we’re focused on Seymour and New Albany,” Warren said. “It is good – the fact that we don’t play either of those teams the first round of the sectional. That way, when we play them this week, we can focus on them as a conference opponent, and a chance to go undefeated and win the conference. … That would be a big confidence boost for our kids.”
Class 4A Sectional 15 at Floyd Central:
Jennings County (5-13, 1-5 HHC) vs. Floyd Central (11-9, 1-5 HHC), winner vs. New Albany (12-5, 3-1 HHC)
Bedford North Lawrence (14-4, 6-1 HHC) vs. Seymour (14-5, 4-1 HHC), winner vs. Jeffersonville (12-7, 4-0 HHC)