Since 2002, either New Albany or Jeffersonville has won the Class 4-A boys’ basketball sectional at Seymour High School every year but one, when Jennings County interrupted the trend in 2005.
Is it New Albany’s turn? The Bulldogs (14-5), who have clinched at least a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference, are one of the favorites to end Jeffersonville’s two-year run when the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Tournament begins on March 4.
New Albany meets rival Floyd Central (3-17) in the opening game, while Jeffersonville (10-10) faces Jennings County (12-8) in the second contest. Bedford North Lawrence (9-10) received a bye and will meet the New Albany-Floyd Central winner in the first semifinal on March 7.
Seymour (2-15) drew the other bye and will await the Jennings County-Jeffersonville winner in the second semifinal. The final is March 8.
New Albany coach Jim Shannon was reluctant to accept the role as lead dog. His team lost 56-52 at Jennings County on Feb. 8, but the Bulldogs have bitten all the other possible challengers in their path, including the Highlanders.
“It depends on who you ask,” Shannon said. “I would think every team that’s playing should think they’re the favorite. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be playing.”
New Albany already owns a 49-45 win over Floyd Central on Dec. 13.
“It’s not like we had our way with them the first time,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll bring that up several times. It’s a rivalry game for us. Our kids understand if we’re not ready to play, anybody can beat anyone. There’ll be no letdown. It will take good effort to get through that game and win the sectional, because we have to go the long way.”
BNL drew a bye for the seventh straight year, defying odds of 1 in 2,187 to receive the free pass to the semifinals. The Stars needed the break, with three games scheduled this week to finish a 10-game month because of so many weather-related postponements.
“We’re fortunate,” BNL coach Jamie Hudson said. “Every year coaches want a bye but we really needed it. It’s been brutal on our legs and the mental aspect.”
Jeffersonville lost 72-60 at Jennings County on Feb. 13. The Devils have been as spastic as their record indicates, especially after their 6-1 start and some roster changes.
“If our better half shows up, we will have a good shot,” coach Matt Pait said. “Jennings is a tough team, and they handed it to us at their place. This time we get them on neutral court. I think we’ve been playing better and it’s prepared us to have some success in the sectional.”
New Albany’s status as HHC champion will depend on Columbus East’s road trip to Jeffersonville on Wednesday. If the Devils defeat the Olympians (5-1 HHC), the Bulldogs (6-1) will win the league title outright. An East victory will create a co-champion scenario.
The sectional champion will advance to the two-game regional at Seymour on March 15.