By KEVIN HARRIS
SEYMOUR – The New Albany Bulldogs’ bid to repeat as Class 4A state champions came to a disappointing end Saturday night at Scott Gym.
Despite a 44-point performance from junior standout Romeo Langford, the top-ranked Bulldogs fell to No. 8 Castle in the Class 4A Seymour Regional championship game 72-64. It was the Knights’ first regional title since 2012.
“Pound for pound, they just really hurt us in certain spots tonight,” New Albany head coach Jim Shannon said. “We had a tough matchup from the get-go. But we thought after the first half that we could play with them. We tried to speed the tempo up a little bit. At times, it worked in our favor when we were trapping (on defense). We just weren’t hitting. We just didn’t hit our shots.”
Castle (24-3) will face Indianapolis Ben Davis (21-5) in the Class 4A south semistate next Saturday at either Scott Gym or Richmond’s Tiernan Center. The Giants defeated Connersville in the Southport Regional final 44-21. The IHSAA will determine the semistate site Sunday.
Langford’s 44 points were two short of his single-game school record of 46, which he set last year in leading New Albany to the Class 4A Richmond Semistate crown versus Southport. He shot 13-of-34 from the field, including 5-of-17 from 3-point range, and 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. Langford also grabbed six rebounds.
It was the seventh time in Langford’s high school career that the five-star recruit registered 40-plus points in a game.
As for the rest of the Bulldogs, they scored just a combined 20 points. Senior guard Isaac Hibbard had 15 points in his last contest in a New Albany jersey. During his prep career, Hibbard helped the Bulldogs capture four outright Hoosier Hills Conference championships, four sectional titles, one regional crown, a semistate title and last year’s Class 4A state championship.
Hibbard grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the stripe. He shot 3-of-5 from the floor and 1-of-2 from 3-point range.
“Romeo and Isaac played their hearts out. I mean they really did. What more can you say?” Shannon said. “Isaac was trying to get some shots and get some looks. He ended up with 15, but we would’ve liked to have gotten him some more. But they stuck to him like glue.”
New Albany (25-4) struggled to contain Castle’s front-line players throughout the night. Six-foot-five senior forward Payton Mills led the Knights with 22 points, shooting 10-of-17 from the floor. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
Castle’s 6-11 power forward Jack Nunge, who will play at the University of Iowa next season, recorded a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. Nunge connected on eight of his 16 field-goal attempts and was 4-of-5 at the line.
Knight sophomore point guard Alex Hemenway ended up with 17 points and nine boards. Mills, Nunge and Hemenway helped Castle dominate the glass against the Bulldogs by a 42-26 margin.
Leading 44-42 with about two minutes left in the third quarter, the Knights scored the next five points to go up 49-42. But back-to-back 3-pointers by Langford pulled New Albany to within one point at 49-48 early in the fourth.
That is when Castle responded in a major way.
The Knights went on a 15-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 64-52. Mills had seven points during that spurt, while Hemenway chipped in six.
With Castle up 68-56, New Albany tried to make a huge run. Langford converted a layup and Hibbard knocked down a 3 with 2:03 left in regulation to pull the Bulldogs within 68-61. But New Albany could not get any closer.
The Bulldogs shot 18-of-51 from the field (35.3 percent), while the Knights shot better than 50 percent at 30-of-59 (50.8 percent).
The Dogs say goodbye to three seniors in Hibbard, guard Peyton Martin and forward Seth Short.
Check out Southern Indiana Preps later this weekend for a breakdown of the Class 4A Seymour Regional.
CLASS 4A SEYMOUR REGIONAL
CASTLE 72, NEW ALBANY 64
New Albany 15 18 12 19-64
Castle 16 16 17 23-72
New Albany (25-4): Romeo Langford 44, Isaac Hibbard 15, Derrick Stevenson 3, Blake Murphy 2, Sean East 0, Julien Hunter 0, Savion Southers 0.
Castle (24-3): Payton Mills 22, Jack Nunge 20, Alex Hemenway 17, Brandon Eades 8, Jace Steiler 3, Triston Wilkinson 2, Jordan Baker 0, Zach Messinger 0.
3-point field goals: New Albany 7 (Langford 5, Hibbard 1, Stevenson 1); Castle 3 (Hemenway 2, Steiler 1).
Rebounds: New Albany 26 (Hibbard 7); Castle 42 (Nunge 18).
Turnovers: New Albany 6, Castle 4.
Free throws: New Albany 21-24, Castle 9-14.
Total fouls: New Albany 15, Castle 17.
Fouled out: none.
Technical fouls: Castle bench.