Devils catch fire, burn past Stars for sectional championship

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Colten Leach glides through the lane for a shot. Leach scored 13 points, but Jeffersonville rallied in the fourth quarter for a 57-53 win over the Stars in the Sectional 15 finale on Saturday night.

By Justin Sokeland

SEYMOUR – When the heat got turned up, when the game thermostat got switched to high in the final minutes of a classic battle, the Devils were finally comfortable. Imagine that. Devils enjoying the flames.

Jeffersonville, chilled by Bedford North Lawrence’s tepid, watered-down tempo, caught fire and burned to a sectional championship, leaving the Stars in the ashes of a late charge. When the smoke cleared, the Red Devils were cutting down the nets and taking home the prize BNL so desperately sought and battled to win.

Trailing entering the fourth quarter, Jeffersonville blasted and scorched to a 57-53 victory in the Sectional 15 finale on Saturday night. Jaylen Fairman scored 18 points as the Devils (15-6 with 9 straight wins) advanced to the regional, denying the Stars their first title in 20 years.

BNL (14-11) played the underdog role to perfection, controlling pace and making the Devils squirm as the Stars surged to a seven-point lead in the second half and got within envious distance of the finish line. They just came up a spurt short. Jeffersonville, in a 3-minute burst of brilliance, hit its first five shots of the fourth quarter, roared in front, and stayed there.

When BNL lost its grip on the game speed, when Jeffersonville got free from BNL’s zone net to finally stretch out and run a little, the trophy got away. The drought continues, although BNL gave a heroic effort.

“The momentum switched,” BNL coach Jeff Hein said. ”The game got fast. We had the speed and tempo where we wanted it. Then they (the game officials) decided to let us play in the fourth quarter, and that wasn’t to our advantage.

“That was our demise. They made some plays, got some energy, and that was the difference in the game. That little run got us. We played well for a while. The game got a little faster, and that got us behind. We couldn’t play from behind.”

BNL, seeking to avenge a regular-season loss to the Devils and claim its first championship since 2001, played from the lead for the first 24 minutes. Jackson Miracle scored 7 points in the first half as the Stars stormed to a 20-15 lead, Colten Leach stroked a 3-pointer for a 26-19 advantage, and Colton Staggs scored three times on daring drives as BNL took a 37-34 edge to the last quarter.

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Colton Staggs lofts a shot over a defender. Staggs scored 13 points.

Then the firestorm started, and BNL couldn’t douse it. Fairman scurried through traffic for a layup, and Will Lovings-Watts got loose on a fast break for a slam. Fairman weaved through the lane for another basket, Kobe Stoudemire buried a bomb, and Brandon Rayzer-Moore dashed for a fast break layup and a 46-41 lead. Five straight shots. Each one was a dagger.

“In the fourth quarter, our defense created that intensity and that carried over to the offense, got us more into our normal rhythm,” Jeffersonville coach Andrew Grantz said. “We didn’t want to trade punches but we wanted to pick our spots, get to that fourth quarter, then turn up the pressure.

“Part of it was last night’s game (the triple-overtime conquest of Floyd Central in the semifinal). That was my biggest concern. The way we played the fourth quarter, as far as intensity defensively, is how we want to play all the time. I knew we wouldn’t be able to do that with the three-overtime game. So we weren’t able to get into our game rhythm. We were still gassed.”

For the Stars to be in position for the upset bordered on amazing. They shot only 33 percent (17 of 51) and many of those misses were from short range in the paint. For the first time in this tournament, the rims of Scott Gymnasium were unkind.

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Ben Cosner drives around Jeffersonville’s Brandon Rayzer-Moore. Cosner totaled 5 points and 7 rebounds.

“We had opportunities to build a bigger lead, opportunities to score and didn’t,” Hein said. “To shoot like that and still have a chance to win the game, against a high-level team, I’m proud as heck of those kids.

“They didn’t quit. They just didn’t quit.”

Even after Jeffersonville’s blast to an 8-point lead (53-45 with 1:21 left), BNL didn’t quit. Staggs made two free throws, and Kooper Staley converted a four-point play to create one-possession drama. After Rayzer-Moore made a free throw for 54-51 edge with 24 seconds remaining, Staley swooped inside for a reverse layup. Fairman made a free throw to make it 56-53 with 6.5 left, but this time the Stars turned the ball over. Fairman cemented the Jeffersonville celebration with a final free throw.

Fairman, a mid-season addition to the roster, has been Jeffersonville’s catalyst for its late streak and its title. Rayzer-Moore, another off-season transfer, scored 16 points. Stoudemire added 11 and Lovings-Watts totaled 10, but the key to the attack was Fairman at the top of BNL’s zone.

“He’s been a difference maker for them,” Hein said. “They’re playing really well with him on the floor. We got beat by a very good team. There’s no ifs, ands or buts. They are very good. Look at the last part of the season and where they are.”

SEYMOUR – BNL coach Jeff Hein issues instructions on the sideline. Hein and the Stars finished the season 14-11.

Staggs paced the Stars with 13 points, all in the second half, while Leach totaled 13 and Staley finished with 12. BNL will bid farewell to six seniors, including Miracle, who was 4-of-4 shooting for 9 points.

“We put ourselves in position,” Hein said. “Last night (in the win over New Albany) we made the plays. This time we didn’t make the shots. They were denying Leach, so we said we would play 4 on 4. Staggs was able to get around that kid and score some baskets.

”We battled them hard. We gave ourselves a chance.”

After the massive gym was evacuated and the echoes silenced, the Devils emerged from the locker room to cut down the nets and take the team photos in an empty arena. Another reminder of the times.

“When you’re 60 years old, and talking to your grandkids, you’ll be talking about back in my day, we had a pandemic we had to play through,” Grantz said. “I’m just so proud of them.’

“I don’t think I appreciated how difficult it is, how hard it is to win a sectional. I see just how tough it is.”

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Aden Pemberton, one of six seniors playing their final game, battles for a rebound.


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

11 Ben Cosner, f 0-3 2-12 1-2 7 3 5

31 Jackson Miracle, f 0-0 4-4 1-2 3 4 9

24 Colten Leach, g 1-1 4-16 4-4 7 1 13

12 Kooper Staley, g 2-4 3-10 4-5 3 4 12

22 Colton Staggs, g 1-2 4-7 4-4 2 4 13

3 Aden Pemberton 0-1 0-2 1-2 2 2 1

25 Josh Blunk 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0

Totals 4-13 17-51 15-19 30 18 53


3s FGs FTs R F Pts

1 Will Lovings-Watts, f 1-3 2-5 5-6 7 3 10

23 Jaylen Fairman, f 0-2 5-7 8-9 4 2 18

11 Brandon Rayzer-Moore, g 1-5 5-11 5-6 6 2 16

2 Kobe Stoudemire, g 2-4 2-6 1-1 1 3 11

5 Jered Tyson, g 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 2 0

4 Bryan Smithers 0-0 1-1 0-0 2 2 2

13 Brenton Moore 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 1 0

25 Michael O’Brien 0-0 0-1 0-0 0 1 0

Totals 4-18 17-35 19-22 21 16 57

Bedford NL 11 10 16 16 – 53

Jeffersonville 8 9 17 23 – 57

Turnovers – BNL 7, Jeffersonville 10

Field goal percentage – BNL 17-51 (.333); Jeffersonville 17-35 (.486)

Free throw percentage – BNL 15-19 (.789); Jeffersonville 19-22 (.864)


Jake Heidbreder, Floyd Central

Brandon Rayzer-Moore, Jeffersonville

Kooper Staley, BNL

Colten Leach, BNL

Will Lovings-Watts, Jeffersonville

Jaylen Fairman, Jeffersonville

Kaden Stanton, New Albany