SEYMOUR, Ind. – Saturday’s Sectional 15 championship is set.
Behind a pair of semifinal victories on Friday night, New Albany and Floyd Central have each solidified a spot in the 7:30 p.m. final at Seymour. The top-ranked Bulldogs are gunning for their fourth straight crown. The Highlanders will vie for their first title since 1989.
New Albany (22-3) ran away with an 89-52 win over Bedford North Lawrence Friday to end the Stars’ season at 9-16. Junior five-star guard Romeo Langford tallied 33 points, including 23 in the first half, to pace the Bulldogs. Floyd Central (19-4) toppled Seymour (9-15) – an upset winner over Jeffersonville (14-11) Tuesday – 44-26 in the opener.
Ranked No. 1 in both the Class 4A AP poll and the single-class rankings, New Albany is 7-0 versus sectional opponents this season. The Bulldogs have won 51 sectionals all-time and seven in the past 10 years.
“There we are – two rival schools,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “They’ve had a great year. So have we. Should be a great game.”
The Highlanders dropped a 65-42 decision to New Albany on Dec. 9 behind 19 first-quarter points from Langford, marking the team’s lone loss to a sectional foe this season. Floyd Central has won 16 of 19 since, which included a 14-game win streak. Saturday marks the Highlanders’ first sectional championship appearance since the 2003-04 season.
“(The Highlanders) are Indiana boys,” Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon said. “They’ve been dreaming of that their whole life. So I would like to think they’ll come out pistols blazing. We’ll see.”
►New Albany 89, Bedford North Lawrence 52: The Bulldogs jumped out to a 28-9 lead after one quarter and led by as many as 39 points in the win Friday.
Langford, who is two points away from reaching 2,000 for his career, went 14-for-21 from the floor en route to his 33-point effort. The junior added eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Sean East had 12 points and five assists, and Blake Murphy added 11 for New Albany.
“Romeo did what he needed to do to give us the cushion, then he started sharing it. That’s just what he does,” Shannon said. “He gets a bunch of points in the first half and starts distributing in the second half. … I was very proud of his effort in that (aspect). I thought Sean (East) played a great game, point guard-wise. He was finding people and getting a lot of assists. He was running the show for us.”
Behind 14 first-quarter points from Langford and an 11-for-14 clip overall, the Bulldogs led by 19 entering the second quarter. New Albany upped its advantage to 40-17 with less than three minutes left until halftime before extending it to 46-21 the break. The Bulldogs shot 70 percent in the first half and turned it over just once.
New Albany led 61-29 with 3:19 left in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs entered the fourth with a 64-36 edge. The advantage grew to 39 in the final period behind an 11-point second half from Murphy, one of nine Bulldogs to score Friday night. New Albany shot 67 percent as a team.
“Really proud of everybody that played,” Shannon said. “I thought we had our business suits on, ready to go. From the get-go, I can tell the kids are calm and loose, but they’re also serious about the game.”
►Floyd Central 44, Seymour 26: The Highlanders held the host Owls to a season-low 26 points on a lowly 21-percent shooting clip in Friday’s win. Floyd Central – ranked No. 18 in the final single-class rankings – outrebounded the sectional hosts by 21. Seymour finished with five field goals and 10 turnovers.
Saturday marks Floyd Central’s second sectional final appearance in Class 4A. The Highlanders have won 14 sectional crowns all-time.
“We’ve rebounded the ball better during this stretch,” Sturgeon said. “We should. Sometimes we’re playing three or four guys between 6’4” and 6’8” – we ought to be able to get a rebound, you would think. That, obviously, was a key.”
Cobie Barnes led the way for the Highlanders with 10 points and six rebounds. Trevor Apple and Luke Gohmann added nine and eight points, respectively, to go along with a combined 13 rebounds.
A Gohmann bucket midway through the first quarter gave the Highlanders a 4-2 lead, and a Barnes offensive rebound and putback extended Floyd Central’s advantage less than a minute later. The Highlanders entered the second quarter with an 11-4 lead on a baseline jumper from Evan Nichols.
Seymour opened the second with a 3-pointer to cut its deficit to four, and the Owls inched to within 11-9 with 3:44 showing. Floyd Central began the second period 0-for-5 from the floor before Matt Weimer sparked a 10-3 run to close the first half. Tyler Kimm’s driving layup at the buzzer gave the Highlanders a 21-12 edge at the break.
The Owls shot 2-for-10 in the first half – 1-for-7 from 3-point range – to go along with five turnovers. Floyd Central went 8-for-23 from the floor but outrebounded the sectional hosts 15-6.
Floyd Central jumped out to a 25-13 lead to begin the second half, and a Barnes driving layup made for a 27-14 advantage midway through the third quarter. A Kimm 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Highlanders to a 36-18 lead entering the fourth. Alan Perry nailed the Owls’ fourth field goal to bring Seymour within 36-22 early, but five fourth-quarter points from Apple was enough to keep the distance.
“I was really happy with our half-court defense,” Sturgeon said. “Particularly on (Alan) Perry and (Tyler) Bloom. … With our size, their bigs aren’t going to dominate against us, so when we play them, it’s Perry and Bloom (we key in on).”
Sectional 15 semifinals at Seymour
Floyd Central 44, Seymour 26
Highlanders (19-4): Cobie Barnes 10p, 6r, 2a; Luke Gohmann 8p, 6r, 3a; Trevor Apple 9p, 7r; Brendan Hobson 6p, 4r; Tyler Kimm 5p; Matt Weimer 4p, 3r; Evan Nichols 2p
Owls (9-15): Alan Perry 6p; Tyler Bloom 5p, 6r; Alex Hofer 1p; Jordan Miller 3p, 2r; Tiller Cummings 6p; Dylan Wilson 2p; Ty McCory 3p
New Albany 89, Bedford North Lawrence 52
Bulldogs (22-3): Romeo Langford 33p, 8r, 5a, 2b; Isaac Hibbard 10p; Sean East 12p, 5a; Julien Hunter 6p, 5r; Blake Murphy 11p, 4r; Derrick Stevenson 7p; Seth Short 4p; Savion Southers 2p; Richard Hourigan 2p; Marcus McGee 2p
Stars (9-16): Brayton Bailey 13p, 3r; McCall Ray 14p; Jathan Ritter 5p; Isaiah Stockman 6p, 7r; Gaven Moore 6p; Ryan Bailey 3p; Alex McCutcheon 1p; Koby Byers 2p