By KEVIN HARRIS
SEYMOUR – Class 4A No. 1 New Albany started its defense of last year’s Class 4A state championship Tuesday night at Scott Gym by defeating Hoosier Hills Conference rival Jennings County in the first round of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional 88-57.
The Bulldogs (22-3) moved on to the semifinals where they will face Bedford North Lawrence (9-15) at approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday. New Albany won at Bedford on Feb. 17 in a HHC game 67-55.
Junior swingman Romeo Langford recorded another double-double with a game-high 31 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. The five-star player shot 12-of-24 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Teammate Isaac Hibbard poured in 16 points, making seven of his 14 field-goal attempts. The senior guard also had three assists and three steals.
Also for the Bulldogs, junior guard Sean East scored 11 points and distributed four assists, freshman forward Julien Hunter had eight points and junior forward Blake Murphy grabbed seven boards.
The Bulldogs pulled out to an 18-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second, they outscored Jennings County 27-16 to take a 45-24 halftime advantage. Langford scored 22 points in the first half, which consisted of 10 in the first quarter and 12 in the second.
New Albany’s lead grew to 71-39 at the conclusion of the third as it outscored the Panthers 26-15 in the period. For the game, the Bulldogs connected on 56.3 percent of their shots (36-of-64) and held Jennings County to 40.4 percent shooting (21-of-52).
It was the second time this season that the Bulldogs defeated the Panthers (13-11) by a huge margin. New Albany thumped Jennings County on Feb. 2 at The Doghouse 84-55. Langford did not play that game because of a dislocated pinky finger.
The Bulldogs are vying for their fourth consecutive sectional title and 52nd sectional championship overall.
Senior forward Tyler Vogel was the lone Jennings County player in double figures with 14 points. Fellow seniors Nick AmRhein and Kenneth Jones each added nine.
The Panthers ended their season losing their final five games. After beginning the season 9-1, Jennings County went 4-10 following that start.
CLASS 4A SEYMOUR SECTIONAL
NEW ALBANY 88, JENNINGS COUNTY 57
New Albany 18 27 26 17-88
Jennings Co. 8 16 15 18-57
New Albany (22-3): Romeo Langford 31, Isaac Hibbard 16, Sean East 11, Julien Hunter 8, Blake Murphy 6, Seth Short 5, Derrick Stevenson 5, Savion Southers 4, Trey Hourigan 2, Peyton Martin 0, Marcus McGee 0.
Jennings County (13-11): Tyler Vogel 14, Nick AmRhein 9, Kenneth Jones 9, Bret Sawyer 8, Chase Ketcham 6, Travis Wilson 5, Weston Miller 2, Josh Pettit 2, Cody Wilson 2.
3-point field goals: New Albany 6 (East 2, Hibbard 1, Langford 1, Short 1, Stevenson 1); Jennings County 5 (Ketcham 2, Vogel 2, C. Wilson 1).