SEYMOUR, Ind. – For the 12th consecutive season, New Albany is headed to the sectional semifinals.
The Bulldogs (22-3) led by as many as 36 and cruised to an 88-57 win over Jennings County (13-11) Tuesday night in their Sectional 15 opener at Seymour. Star junior Romeo Langford scored a game-high 31 points. The 6-foot-5 guard netted 22 in the first half, which included 12 in the second quarter.
New Albany advances to Friday’s semifinals versus Bedford North Lawrence (9-14) at 7:30 p.m. The defending Class 4A state champion, New Albany has won three consecutive sectional titles – seven in the past 10 years – and seven straight tournament games, good for fourth and second in the state, respectively. The Bulldogs have won 51 sectional championships all-time.
Senior Isaac Hibbard added to Langford’s performance with 16 in the win for the Bulldogs, who also got 11 out of junior Sean East. The point guard scored nine in the third. Freshman post Julien Hunter chipped in with eight. Nine New Albany players scored.
Jennings County, led by Tyler Vogel’s 14 points, tied the game midway through the first quarter before the Bulldogs ran away. New Albany led 18-8 after one, and the Bulldogs tacked on 27 in the second for a 45-24 halftime advantage. Behind East’s nine, New Albany tallied 26 in the third quarter.
New Albany coach Jim Shannon, who has won all but two sectional openers since joining the Bulldogs, said Tuesday’s win didn’t come without some nerves.
“First game, even with experience, there’s some jitters,” Shannon said. “You just want to survive that Tuesday game, get the jitters out, then show up and play Friday. Now, if you get your kids off their feet tomorrow, go light, and then go light on Thursday, you can come back Friday and use this to your advantage instead of sitting there all week.”
New Albany has won seven straight against its sectional semifinal opponent, which includes a 67-55 win at BNL on Feb. 17.
“I certainly think we’ll be ready to play,” Shannon said. “We were focused and ready to play tonight. We’ll go home and we’ll go through the game plan the next two days, like we do getting ready for an opponent. We’ll get ready for Bedford and only Bedford. That’s it. One at a time. I feel really good about where we’re at. We’ve been playing good basketball.”
The Bulldogs regained the top spot in both the Class 4A Associated Press poll and the single-class Indiana Basketball Coaches Association rankings entering postseason play. But Shannon said the honors don’t mean much without a trophy.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters whether you’re ranked two or 12 or 22 or one,” Shannon said. “It’s nice to have that by your name, but I’d rather be No. 1 at the end of the season. … We respect everybody. We fear nobody. There’s no reason for us to. These kids are really good players and they play well together.”
Sectional 15 opening round at Seymour
New Albany 88, Jennings County 57
Bulldogs (22-3): Romeo Langford 31p; Sean East 11p; Isaac Hibbard 16p; Derrick Stevenson 5p; Julien Hunter 8p; Savion Southers 4p; Seth Short 5p; Blake Murphy 6p; Richard Hourigan 2p
Panthers (13-11): Tyler Vogel 14p; Bret Sawyer 8p; Kenneth Jones 9p; Nick AmRhein 9p; Chase Ketcham 6p; Travis Wilson 5p; Cody Wilson 2p; Josh Pettit 2p; Weston Miller 2p