Basketball

New Albany rallies for 4th straight sectional title

SEYMOUR, Ind. – New Albany standouts Romeo Langford and Sean East saved their best for last in Saturday’s Sectional 15 championship.

The Bulldogs, pitted against county rival Floyd Central, entered the fourth quarter in a stalemate before the junior duo took matters into its own hands. Langford and East scored 13 of New Albany’s 19 fourth-quarter points, sparking a 22-3 run that capped a 54-38 win for the Bulldogs. New Albany trailed at the half, but it held Floyd Central to just three points – all at the line – in the final eight-plus minutes.

Saturday’s win marks the fourth consecutive sectional title for New Albany, which improved to 24-3 on the year and 51-4 in the past two seasons. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 16 sectional crowns and 52 all-time.

“It’s always special,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “Because it’s new. Every year it’s new. It’s none of that, ‘We’ve been there, we’ve done that.’ So what? It’s new. It wasn’t easy. I don’t care what the score said. It was really hard. (Floyd Central) played really well. Defensively, they’re hard to score against. The only thing I can say on behalf of our team is: We must be hard to score against, because I thought it was tooth-and-nails to get any points. … They’d win a lot of sectionals across this state.”

The Bulldogs advance to next Saturday’s Seymour regional semifinal, where they’ll meet Center Grove (17-7) in the opener at 10 a.m. The winner advances to the regional final at 8 p.m. that night versus No. 8 Castle (22-3) or Bloomington South (22-4). New Albany has won 17 regional titles, including two under Shannon.

►GALLERY: New Albany tops Floyd Central in Sectional 15 title

“We (don’t know a lot) about Center Grove,” East said, “but we’re just going to prepare the same way: Watch film, study them, go over their plays. Just like normal. We just have to come out and play.”

East paced New Albany with 18 points on Saturday, and Langford added 16. The junior five-star guard chipped in eight rebounds and two blocks. Senior Isaac Hibbard tallied 11 for the Bulldogs.

With his 16 points on Saturday, Langford eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career, becoming the 49th player in Indiana history to do so. He passed DeKalb’s Luke Recker for 47th on the state’s all-time scoring list in the win. Hibbard, meanwhile, moved into the No. 7 spot on New Albany’s all-time scoring list Saturday.

“I’m undefeated so far in the sectionals,” Langford said. “ … We’ll celebrate tonight, but after tonight we have to focus on Saturday’s game.”

Floyd Central’s season ended at 19-5 – the Highlanders’ highest win total since the 1989 final-four team. Tyler Kimm and Trevor Apple graduate off this year’s team, but Floyd Central returns its two leading scorers in Luke Gohmann and Cobie Barnes.

“I thought Tyler Kimm was outstanding in both (sectional) games – defensively, he rebounded. He made shots,” Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon said. “(He) never turns the ball over. … Trevor, it’s too bad he missed three months of the preseason. Couldn’t lift, couldn’t do anything. I really think he’s coming on as a player. He had a really good season, and he made some plays out there tonight.”

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New Albany opened the game on an 11-0 run behind six early points from East and a 3-for-4 clip from 3-point range. With 3:35 left in the opening quarter, Kimm opened scoring for the Highlanders with a 3, and another bucket from the senior inched Floyd Central within 11-8 with 1:02 remaining later in the period.

A 3-point play from Gohmann tied the score at 11 to begin the second quarter, but East responded with his third 3-pointer of the first half. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 19-13 with five minutes showing on a 3 from Hibbard. New Albany couldn’t pull away, though. Floyd Central tied it up again with 2:20 left until halftime, and two Gohmann free throws gave the Highlanders their first lead at 21-19. They entered the break with a 23-22 advantage.

The game remained tight throughout the third quarter, as a Gohmann 3-pointer gave Floyd Central a 32-30 lead with less than three minutes on the clock. A Barnes 3-pointer later made for a 35-32 edge, but the Bulldogs tied it up entering the fourth, which proved to be all New Albany.

A 10-0 run from Langford and East, who combined to shoot 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter, lifted the Bulldogs to a 45-35 advantage with 4:20 left. The lead grew to 50-38 with less than two minutes remaining.

After scoring 31 and 33 points, respectively, in the Bulldogs’ first two sectional matchups, Langford said he wasn’t his normal self on Saturday. He went 5-for-12 from the floor with four turnovers, but the win, Langford said, is all that matters.

“Just had to buckle up on defense – no more second-chance shots, take care of the ball,” Langford said. “I was kind of throwing the ball away like I was a rookie. I don’t know what got into me, but we got the job done.”

Sectional 15 championship at Seymour

New Albany 54, Floyd Central 38

Bulldogs (24-3): Romeo Langford 16p, 8r, 2a, 2b; Sean East 18p, 2a; Isaac Hibbard 11p, 6a; Julien Hunter 3r; Derrick Stevenson 6p, 2r; Blake Murphy 3p

Highlanders (19-5): Cobie Barnes 5p; Luke Gohmann 8p, 3r; Trevor Apple 9p, 4r; Tyler Kimm 8p, 4r; Matt Weimer 6p; Brendan Hobson 2p

New Albany head coach Jim Shannon (left) celebrates a big shot with only minutes left of the 2017 Boys Class 4A Sectional 15 Final against Floyd Central at Seymour High School. New Albany won 54-38. (Photo by David Lee Hartlage, Special to The Courier-Journal) Mar. 4, 2017

New Albany head coach Jim Shannon (left) celebrates a big shot with only minutes left of the 2017 Boys Class 4A Sectional 15 Final against Floyd Central at Seymour High School. New Albany won 54-38. (Photo by David Lee Hartlage, Special to The Courier-Journal) Mar. 4, 2017