By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY – It appears everything is back to normal for the New Albany Bulldogs.
On Saturday afternoon at The Doghouse, Romeo Langford scored a game-high 22 points in his second game back from a dislocated pinky finger to lead Class 4A No. 4 New Albany to a 77-48 victory over Evansville Central.
It was the Bulldogs’ second victory this past weekend as they knocked off Class 2A No. 1 Providence on Friday night at The Doghouse 55-40.
The wins over the rival Pioneers and the Bears over the weekend showed they had bounced back from their 52-46 loss at Hoosier Hills Conference rival Columbus East on Feb. 4. The Olympians’ setback was the second game Langford missed because of his injury.
Saturday’s triumph was the 10th time this season New Albany has prevailed by at least 20 points.
“I like the way the guys are playing right now. I thought we had a great weekend,” New Albany head coach Jim Shannon said. “I thought we got some really good play out of a lot of people.”
Langford was one of five Bulldogs to score in double figures. Junior guard Sean East tallied 18 points, while senior guard Isaac Hibbard and freshman forward Julien Hunter each had 11. New Albany sophomore guard Derrick Stevenson ended up with 10.
Langford played a major role in getting his teammates involved in the offense with six assists. He did an efficient job of getting the ball to the open man as he drew double- and triple-teams from Central (6-12).
“He creates so much for our other kids because defenders have to come and get him. We got everyone involved,” Shannon said.
Junior forward Joe Space led the Bears with 15 points and six rebounds. Teammate Collin Wedding chipped in 13 points.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: East – Even though Langford had his usual sound performance, East remained hot with his shooting and gave Langford plenty of offensive support to turn the game into a blowout.
East shot 7-of-11 from the floor and knocked down 4-of-8 3-pointers. He has averaged 22.5 points in the last four games.
“He’s special. He’s playing really well right now,” Shannon said. “He’s playing great and I think that’s why we were able to win by the margin we did today.”
KEY SEQUENCE: Following a layup by sophomore guard Malcolm DePriest Jr. to pull Central within 23-16 early in the second quarter, New Albany went on a 23-7 run to go up 46-23 late in the stanza. Langford had eight points during that spurt.
The closest the Bears got after that was 16 points in the opening moments of the third.
UNSUNG HERO: Hunter – The son of former Bulldog standout Chad Hunter hit all five of his shots and made his only foul shot in scoring his 11 points. It was the latter of back-to-back solid performances for the freshman as he had nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots versus Providence.
“He’s playing a lot better. Certainly, Hunter is playing really well right now,” Shannon said.
Honorable-mention players in this category were Stevenson with his 10 points and New Albany junior forward Blake Murphy grabbing a team-high six rebounds. Shannon praised Murphy for his effort.
WHAT NEW ALBANY DID WELL: The Bulldogs had balanced scoring and hot shooting. New Albany was 31-of-60 from the field (51.7 percent) and 9-of-29 from 3-point range (31 percent).
But the Bulldogs’ defensive performance made this game a rout.
New Albany forced Central into 19 turnovers, 12 coming in the first half. The Bears shot 17-of-38 from the floor (44.7 percent), including 6-of-19 in the second half (31.6 percent).
The Bulldogs applied lots of pressure in their full-court press and in the half-court, as they played man-to-man and utilized some trap. Their defense got the tempo in their favor after mainly playing a half-court game against Providence the night before.
“We wanted to get after them a little bit and get it into an up-tempo game, so we can get up some more shots after (Friday) night where we played at such a slow pace. We wanted to get up and down and have some fun,” Shannon said. “We wanted to force them into doing some things that they didn’t want to do. We gave up a lot of high-percentage 2-point shots. But if you’re going to pressure like that, you’re going to have to put up with a few layups.”
AREAS OF CONCERN FOR NEW ALBANY: Throughout the weekend, Langford tried to get comfortable shooting the ball with the wrap on his injured finger. But Shannon thinks after his star has a few practices under his belt, he will be OK.
“Overall, he was good. He didn’t shoot as well from the 3,” Shannon said about Langford’s play versus Central. “But I think when he gets back into practice next week and has three or four practices, I think he’ll be 100 percent next Friday. I really believe he’ll be fine.”
Despite reaching double digits, Hibbard had another off-night shooting the ball as he was 4-of-12. However, he did hit three 3-pointers.
NEXT GAME: At Bedford North Lawrence (8-14, 4-2 Hoosier Hills Conference), next Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Note: New Albany, which is 5-1 in the HHC, will clinch a share of the conference championship with a win.)
NEW ALBANY 77, EVANSVILLE CENTRAL 48
Ev. Central 14 13 11 10-48
New Albany 23 23 15 16-77
Evansville Central (6-12): Joe Space 15, Collin Wedding 13, Keon Jones 6, Jermiah Bradley 4, Zach Daugherty 4, Malcolm DePriest Jr. 4, Devon Mills 2, Cory Bosecker 0, Colton Glaser 0, Sam Kennedy 0, Nathan McVaigh 0, Mason White 0.
New Albany (18-3): Romeo Langford 22, Sean East 18, Isaac Hibbard 11, Julien Hunter 11, Derrick Stevenson 10, Savion Southers 5, Trey Hourigan 0, Peyton Martin 0, Blake Murphy 0, Seth Short 0.
3-point field goals: Central 1 (Space 1); New Albany 9 (East 4, Hibbard 3, Langford 1, Stevenson 1).
Rebounds: Central 27 (Daugherty 7); New Albany 25 (Murphy 6).
Turnovers: Central 19, New Albany 7.
Total fouls: Central 11, New Albany 16.
Fouled out: none.
Junior varsity score: New Albany 57, Central 45.