EVANSVILLE – At this time last season, New Albany was in the
midst of a season-ending 24-game winning streak that concluded with the
Bulldogs winning their first state championship since 1973.
Right now, New Albany is on a similar win streak and it
hopes this string of victories will eventually help the Class 4A No. 2 Bulldogs
cut down the nets again at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in late March.
New Albany won its 10th
game in a row Saturday
night at Reitz Gym, beating Evansville Reitz 79-48. Prior to the current win
streak, the Bulldogs lost two consecutive games. On Dec. 10 at Southport
Fieldhouse, New Albany dropped an 84-60 decision to Class 4A No. 1 North Central.
That was followed by an 85-63 loss to LaPorte La Lumiere, which was ranked No.
1 in the nation in the USA Today Super 25 expert rankings at the time, on Dec.
15 at New Castle Fieldhouse in front of a national television audience.
“We really played well tonight. Since the North Central
game, we’ve been on a pretty good run,” Bulldogs’ head coach Jim Shannon said. “We’ve
got a lot of kids playing well. Derrick Stevenson, a sophomore, has really
stepped up for us and Savion Southers, a junior, has come in and given us a
lift off the bench. He’s played really well and (junior forward) Blake Murphy
has given us some good minutes.”
This past weekend was the third straight double weekend where
New Albany ended up with two victories.
On Friday night at The Doghouse, Silver Creek took its best
shot at the defending Class 4A state champions by pulling out to a nine-point
lead in the second quarter. But New Albany came back to beat the Dragons 76-61.
“It was a great weekend. We beat Silver Creek, another
rivalry team that came in and gave us their best effort. We played great, but
we just needed to play a little bit better,” Shannon said. “(Saturday night),
we went on the road to one of the toughest places to play and played really
Junior swingman Romeo Langford had another solid performance
with game-highs in points (25) and rebounds (10).
“Ro is amazing – I say it every game. He keeps putting on a
show,” Shannon said.
Senior center Jyrus Freels led the Panthers (8-6) with 14
PLAYER OF THE GAME:
– The 6-foot-5 star made 10
of his 18 field-goal attempts and half of his 10 3-point tries.
But Langford showed he can distribute the ball to his fellow
Bulldogs as well as he recorded five assists. Langford could have had more
assists if some of his teammates connected on some shots.
“He’s very unselfish - probably one of the most unselfish
players I’ve ever coached,” Shannon said. “We want him to make plays. He’s kind
of taken the team under his wing at times, and we’re going to need him to do
that in certain games. It’s what we’re asking him to do every game. He’s so
unselfish that he wants to get everybody else involved.”
In fact, Shannon felt his top player was a little too
“I told him in one of the timeouts, ‘I know you’re trying to
get everybody involved and I appreciate it. But, man, if you’re open, I want
you shooting the basketball,’” Shannon said.
Bulldogs turned the game into a blowout in the second quarter thanks to their
Leading 21-10 at the end of the first quarter, New Albany
allowed just six Reitz points in the second to go up 37-16 at halftime. The
Panthers misfired on eight of their 10 shots in the quarter, and did not hit a
field goal until around the 1:30 mark of the period. For the game, Reitz was
19-of-51 from the floor (37.3 percent).
The Panthers entered the game ranked seventh in the state in
scoring at 76.2 points per game. Reitz’s 48 points were a season-low.
“Our defense is our bread and butter. That’s how you win
championships. You win it with defense,” Shannon said. “We’re not where we want
to be, but we’re getting closer. We’re just going to keep plugging away. It was
very good tonight.”
UNSUNG HERO: Julien
Hunter, New Albany
– The talented freshman showed his potential Saturday
with 10 points and seven rebounds. Hunter made all five of field-goal attempts.
He also drew praise from Shannon for his defense on Freels.
“What about Julien Hunter?” Shannon said. “He had 10 points
and seven rebounds and really did a consistently good job on Freels. Freels is
a really good player.”
WHAT NEW ALBANY DID
The Bulldogs did a great job of sharing the ball in their offense as
they passed effectively inside and out and around the perimeter.
As a result, they had five players score in double figures.
Joining Langford and Hunter in double digits were Stevenson with 12 points and guards
Isaac Hibbard and Sean East with 10 apiece. Stevenson grabbed seven rebounds
and East dished out three assists.
“I thought Sean East played a great floor game tonight,”
Plus, the Bulldogs’ defense shut down one of the best
offensive teams in the state.
AREA OF CONCERN FOR
Shannon was not thrilled with his team’s 3-point shooting
percentage. But he also mentioned that his players have struggled shooting at
Reitz Gym in the past.
The Bulldogs shot 8-of-23 from behind the arc (34.8
percent). Hibbard and East, who are two of New Albany’s best long-range
shooters, were a combined 2-of-8 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t shoot the 3 as well as I’d like, but we generally
don’t shoot here very well,” Shannon said.
NEW ALBANY’S NEXT
GAME: At Evansville North (3-12), next Friday, 8 p.m. EDT.
NEW ALBANY 79,
EVANSVILLE REITZ 48
New Albany 21 16 25 17-79
New Albany (13-2):
Romeo Langford 25, Derrick Stevenson 12, Sean East 10, Isaac Hibbard 10, Julien
Hunter 10, Savion Southers 8, Blake Murphy 2, Seth Short 2, Kameron Guess 0,
Peyton Martin 0, Marcus McGee 0.
Jyrus Freels 14, Brennen Whitlock 10, Tamaje’ Blackwell 8, Elijah
Dunham 6, Isaiah Dunham 5, Jonathan Springer 5, Noah Jones 0, Reid Mahan 0,
Travis Nolan 0, Da’Ziaun Sargent 0, Noah Smith 0.
3-point field goals:
New Albany 8
(Langford 5, East 2, Stevenson 1); Reitz 6
(Blackwell 2, Whitlock 2, E. Dunham 1, Springer 1).
Rebounds: New Albany
(Langford 10); Reitz 26
Albany 7, Reitz 11.
Albany 9, Reitz 13.