By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The Spanish term “machismo” refers to a strong sense of self-reliance, the concept of masculine pride, the responsibilty to protect and defend. Modern slang calls it “swagger.”
Sexist? Perhaps. Man-datory for survival in the Class 4A sectional semifinals at Seymour on Friday night? Absolutely.
Toughness will be examined and measured during two seismic rematches of old rivals when Bedford North Lawrence (13-9) battles Jeffersonville (17-5) in the first clash, followed by another chapter in the epic collisions between No.4 Floyd Central (21-2) and New Albany (17-6). Those winners will crash together in the championship on Saturday night.
The Stars, playing their most complete game of the season, won the toughness points during the regular-season victory over the Red Devils. They will need a repeat performance as they seek their first postseason win in four years and chase their first sectional title since 2001.
BNL won that encounter 67-61 in BNL Fieldhouse on Jan. 25, arming the Stars with confidence but giving the Devils the motivation for revenge. That loss cost Jeffersonville the outright Hoosier Hills Conference title, which the Devils shared with Floyd Central.
That outcome was no fluke. BNL was better, protecting the ball like a bear hovers over a cub, guilty of only six turnovers (none in the second half) and getting outstanding performances from Brayton Bailey (21 points) and Jathan Ritter (16 points) for a signature win.
Jeffersonville coach Joe Luce pointed to two key stats – BNL’s 28-20 rebounding advantage and 51 percent shooting – as signs the Devils were too soft that night.
“We weren’t very tough the last time we played,” Luce said. “We got outrebounded, we let guys drive to the basket. We have to do a much better job of defending that rim. If we’re going to win, we have to be tough.”
Both teams have momentum for the tournament. BNL has won 9 of its last 11 games and capped that streak with a thrilling comeback triumph over Corydon to conclude the regular season. Jeffersonville has won 8 straight after crunching Seymour 70-44 in the sectional opener on Tuesday.
“I’m glad we’re coming in with a win,” BNL coach Matt Seifers said. “I thought we played really well the first time. We’ll have to play a good game. They’re a very athletic team.”
Jeffersonville features 6-6 junior wing Tre Coleman, the scoring leader at 16.8, and junior guard Darin Starks (12.9). They combined for 38 points at BNL, and junior guard Jacob Jones averages 7.6 assists.
“I felt all along this was a team that might not get as many wins as we did last year, but could be more tournament ready,” Luce said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we’ve done. We’re playing as good as we have all year. We’re on the same page with our chemistry, our roles, and we’re in this together.”
BNL’s backcourt is its strength, with Bailey (19.3 points and a recent new member of the 1K club for career points), Ritter (13.3) and McCall Ray (11.6) doing a lot of damage.
Floyd Central vs. New Albany – The Highlanders won the regular-season meeting 44-37 in a dogfight at the Doghouse. Floyd coach Todd Sturgeon expects another tight-collar, snarling confrontation.
“When we play each other, we know each other so well and the kids compete so hard, open shots are at a premium,” Sturgeon said. “It always seems to turn into a slugfest. People don’t realize when we play each other, the reason we don’t look good is the other team is guarding the heck out of you. So it’s hard to get free and get an open look.”
Floyd, seeking its first sectional title in 30 years, has the best player in the tournament in 6-6 senior Cobie Barnes, an Indiana State recruit who scored 30 as the Highlanders hammered Jennings County 70-47 in the first round on Tuesday.
New Albany, which has won five straight sectionals, lost junior center Julien Hunter with a broken leg late in the season, but the Bulldogs have continued to win, extending their current streak to 10 in a row.
“We have a lot of respect for New Albany,” Sturgeon said. “I don’t know too many coaches that have done a better job of coaching their team than Jim (Shannon) has. To lose what they lost before the season (with the graduation of Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford), then lose Hunter, they just kept on winning. It’s a real test for us.”
The sectional champion will advance to the two-game regional at Seymour on March 9.
CLASS 4A SECTIONAL 15
JEFFERSONVILLE vs. BNL
When: Friday, 6 p.m.
Records: Jeffersonville 17-5; BNL 13-9
Sagarin ratings: Jeffersonville 86.49; BNL 82.52
Last meeting: On Jan. 25 at BNL, the Stars conquered the Red Devils 67-61 as Brayton Bailey scored 21 points while Jathan Ritter added 16. Darin Starks totaled 20 points and Tre Coleman tallied 18 for Jeffersonville.
Game notes: BNL is chasing its first sectional title since 2001. Jeffersonville leads the series 28-27. The Stars haven’t won a sectional game since reaching the final in 2015.
Jeffersonville Red Devils
F – Tre Coleman 6-6 Jr.
F – Will Lovings-Watts 6-3 Fr.
F – Devean Franklin 6-3 So.
G – Jacob Jones 5-10 Jr.
G – Darin Starks 5-10 Jr.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Jathan Ritter 6-4 Sr.
F – Drew Shoufler 6-3 Sr.
C – Cale Bunch 6-3 Jr.
G – McCall Ray 6-1 Sr.
G – Brayton Bailey 6-2 Jr.
FLOYD CENTRAL vs. NEW ALBANY
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Floyd Central 21-2 (ranked No.4); New Albany 17-6
Sagarin ratings: Floyd Central 93.65; New Albany 87.21
Last meeting: On Dec. 7 at New Albany, the Highlanders stopped the Bulldogs 44-37. Nick Winchell had 13 points and Cobie Barnes added 12 as Floyd ended New Albany’s 42-game home winning streak. Chris Johnson had 12 for New Albany.
Game notes: New Albany is the five-time defending sectional champion. Floyd Central has not won a sectional title since 1989.
Floyd Central Highlanders
F – Cobie Barnes 6-6 Sr.
F – Cam Sturgeon 6-3 Sr.
G – Nick Winchell 5-11 Sr.
G – Jake Heidbreder 6-4 So.
G – Levi Siewert 5-11 Sr.
New Albany Bulldogs
F – Derrick Stevenson 6-2 Sr.
F – Trey Hourigan 6-5 Jr.
G – Landon Sprigler 5-11 Sr.
G – Chris Johnson 5-10 Sr.
G – Kaden Stanton 5-11 Fr.