By Justin Sokeland
JEFFERSONVILLE – Burn, baby, burn.
Kooper Staley, so cold of late, was cold-blooded and clutch, blistering jump shots over unbelieving defenders. Hot, too hot to handle, the junior wing with the aw-shucks smile and wire-thin frame left scorch marks as Bedford North Lawrence recorded the first upset in the Hoosier Hills Conference race.
With Staley firing from long range, with Brayton Bailey penetrating and punishing, the Stars stunned Class 4A No.11 Jeffersonville 61-60 on Friday night. Staley scored a career-high 26 points and Bailey totaled 23 as BNL (10-8, 4-1 in the league) drew even with the Red Devils atop the conference standings.
This was the first signature victory in Jeff Hein’s short term as head coach. This was unexpected – Jeffersonville was a 17-point favorite, according to the Sagarin ratings – by almost everyone except the guys in blue. They burned down Jeffersonville’s Homecoming and set the league ablaze. The fires could be seen all across the state.
Down 7 in the first quarter, the Stars survived the shaky start and exploded with superb execution, with a squishy zone that took away Jeffersonville’s inside power, with perfect fourth-quarter shooting. How about that.
”It’s a great win for the program,” Hein said. “It really is. To come down here, on their Homecoming, and knock them off on their home floor, it feels great. I’m just proud of the effort.”
He should be. BNL got crushed by 27 the last time it visited Johnson Arena, got belted by 21 the last time they faced the Devils. Jeffersonville was cruising with six straight wins. Not anymore. Burn it down.
BNL recovered with a sensational second quarter, as Bailey carved his way through the lane for four baskets. The Stars closed the half with a 10-3 burst to a 29-24 advantage.
And then Staley turned into Stephen Curry. All that morning practice, launching 200-plus shots to break out of a 2-for-15 slump from long range the last two games, clicked. He was on, and nobody could turn him off.
Swish. A trey to stop BNL’s early scuffling in the second half as that lead vanished. Bang. A floater from the lane. Swish again. A bomb for a 40-34 edge as the Devils staggered.
When Bailey muscled to a 3-point play to open the fourth, when Staley stroked another from distance, when Jackson Miracle worked loose for a goal-tended layup, BNL had it biggest lead at 52-40. Then it was hold-on-tight time.
Jeffersonville (12-5, 4-1) raced back within 52-47, and Johnson Arena was in full-throat, scare-the-Hades-out-of-‘em mode. Step up Staley, Boom. A trey from the right wing. From that point, free throws in the final minute by Bailey (four, all of them one-and-ones) and Staley (two with 3.1 seconds left to clinch it). The fire was unquenchable.
”Every time we needed one, he was knocking them in,” Hein said of his quiet assassin. “That was good to see. He struggled last weekend, but we all have confidence in him. We know he’s capable. Shooters shoot, and he shot.”
Staley, shooting 29 percent from that line for the season, never lost his faith in that stroke.
”Like Coach said. You have to have amnesia,” Staley said. “You just have to expect them to go in.”
Jeffersonville struggled against BNL’s game-long, out-of-character 2-3 zone. Tre Coleman, a likely Indiana All-Star destined for Nevada, was limited to 4 shots. The Devils hit 11 treys, with Kobe Stoudemire canning six, but BNL was willing to trade that for Coleman’s lack of presence.
Stoudemire scored 18 points and Will Lovings-Watts added 17. But get this: BNL won the rebounding battle 20-11 (in part because the Stars hardly missed, 9-for-13 in the second half) and had single-digit turnovers. That’s the formula for road success.
“We prepared for this game really well, and we expected to win this,” Staley said. “That was our mentality coming into the game.”
Jeffersonville first-year coach Chris Moore pointed to a lack of defensive fire as the difference. His scouting report indicated Staley was a shooter. On this night, he was also a maker.
“He can shoot. That’s what he does,” Moore said. “We own that. That goes to our lack of effort on the defensive end. All the credit to him. He’s a great shooter. We didn’t bring the energy. It wasn’t there. No excuses, that’s on us.
“That first half was not the way we play. The ball wasn’t moving quick. We were casually walking and not cutting hard. That’s not smart basketball. It was what we didn’t do in the first half. In the second half, all the credit to Bedford. Once they had us down, they could run what they wanted to run. They executed.”
BNL still has huge hurdles ahead in the HHC race. Next is Floyd Central, which was surely cheering as the Highlanders are now among the frontrunners at 4-1 following their 53-30 conquest of Seymour. The Stars will host Floyd on Thursday.
BEDFORD NL STARS (61)
3s FGs FTs R F Prs
31 Jackson Miracle, f 0-0 1-3 0-0 3 3 2
11 Ben Cosner, f 1-3 2-6 0-0 3 3 5
13 Kooper Staley, g 6-7 7-9 6-6 2 1 26
22 Brayton Bailey, g 0-2 7-11 9-10 4 2 23
24 Colten Leach, g 0-0 2-4 1-2 5 1 5
21 Zach Sasser 0-0 0-1 0-0 1 0 0
20 Colton Staggs 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 7-12 19-34 16-18 20 10 61
JEFFERSONVILLE RED DEVILS (60)
3s FGs FTs R F Pts
0 Tre Coleman, f 0-0 2-4 6-6 3 4 10
1 Will Lovings-Watts, f 2-3 6-9 3-4 5 1 17
2 Kobe Stoudemire, g 6-11 6-12 0-0 1 1 18
3 Darin Starks, g 0-2 2-7 0-0 0 2 4
11 Jacob Jones, g 1-3 2-4 0-0 1 5 5
5 Caleb Mason 2-5 2-5 0-0 1 2 0
25 Stevie Kendricks 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
10 Deydrian Hughes 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 11-24 20-41 9-10 11 15 60
Bedford NL 11 18 15 17 – 61
Jeffersonville 16 8 13 23 – 60
Turnovers – BNL 9, Jeffersonville 5
Field goal percentage – BNL 19-34 (.559); Jeffersonville 20-41 (.488)
Free throw percentage – BNL 16-18 (.889); Jeffersonville 9-10 (.900)