By Justin Sokeland
SEYMOUR – The crown was finally ripped off New Albany’s head. And it took a champion to dethrone the five-time defending sectional champs.
Jeffersonville ended New Albany’s reign, dominating the second half while conquering the die-hard Bulldogs 60-42 in the Class 4A sectional final on Saturday night. Jacob Jones scored 19 points as the Devils advanced to the two-game regional on March 9.
The Red Devils (19-5 with a 10-game winning streak) validated their Hoosier Hills Conference title with the trophy that carries more weight and history, cutting down the nets for the first time since 2013.
Don’t be surprised. Either Jeffersonville and New Albany have won this sectional since 2005. The stunning part was the way the Devils pulled away from a 26-25 lead at intermission to pound down the Bulldogs.
“The big difference was the fact we didn’t play with the toughness we needed in the first half,” Jeff coach Joe Luce said. “In the second half, we had some good success. But at the end of the day, we have kids that make shots, kids that finish, kids that penetrate and score. They showed great maturity.
“I’m real proud of these guys. They’re fun to be a part of.”
Jones and Tre Coleman were the catalysts as Jeffersonville finished a season sweep of its main rival. As New Albany (18-7) struggled offensively in the third quarter, Jones drilled a 3-pointer and dropped a 15–footer, while Coleman closed the period with a 15-footer for a 38-29 advantage.
After freshman Kaden Stanton dropped a trey to give the Bulldogs brief hope of a comeback, Jones dashed it. He capped a fast break with a 3-point play and found Coleman for a layup. His last 3-point play started the Jeff celebration.
“The games we’ve been great, the big wins we’ve had, he’s had the offense and defensive pressure we saw in the last two games,” Luce said. “This basketball team is built around Jacob Jones. When he goes, we go. He’s a special kid.”
Darin Starks added 15 points and Coleman totaled 12 as Jeffersonville – with no seniors on the roster – moved on to meet Bloomington South (a 63-48 winner over Shelbyville) in the regional semifinal at Seymour.
New Albany, which stunned No.4 Floyd Central in dramatic fashion in the Friday night semifinal, ran out of gas as its 11-game winning streak came to a screeching halt. Derrick Stevenson, the last-second hero in the win over the Highlanders, had 14 points while Jordan Thomas also totaled 14 (all in the first half).
Jeffersonville and South will collide in second regional semifinal. The opener will feature Jasper (a 45-39 winner over Evansville Reitz) and Center Grove (which clipped Franklin 29-28 in overtime).