Class 4-A regional | New Albany shoots for another trophy

Class 4-A regional | New Albany shoots for another trophy


Class 4-A regional | New Albany shoots for another trophy


Winning a Class 4-A sectional championship has given New Albany energy and confidence. If success in the first stage of the state tournament produces a measurable boost, imagine the adrenaline rush of a regional title.

The Bulldogs, suddenly not satisfied with one trophy, are aiming for a second.

New Albany (17-6) will face Evansville Central (16-6) in Saturday morning’s opening game of the Seymour Regional, with Bloomington North (14-8) to meet Franklin Central (13-10) in the second semifinal. The winners will collide in the final at 8 p.m.

Three of the four sectionals that feed into this stage produced surprise winners, with New Albany the only favorite to survive. The regional, while lacking star power and headline stealers, is up for grabs. So why not New Albany?

The Bulldogs own the quartet’s best record but the third-best Sagarin computer power rating. They also suffered a regular-season loss at Evansville Central (47-44 on Feb. 15). But the sectional triumph has sharpened their focus and adjusted their attitude.

“A lot of positive things happen,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “This is what all the hard work does; it pays off sometimes. When it does, what a great feeling. Now they’re wondering what it would be like to win the regional. They’re hungry for that.

“You feel like you’re playing good basketball when you win a sectional. It certainly gives your kids an extra bounce, an extra pep in their step. They’re smiling a lot more. I think it’s anybody’s tournament.”

Shannon would like to discount the loss at Central, played on a Saturday afternoon before a sparse crowd. Central coach Scott Hudson does not, calling it “a signature win.” It came in the midst of Central’s second-half surge, with 11 wins in the last 12 games, and ended an eight-year losing streak against the Bulldogs.

The rematch centers on two figures.

Senior guard Kourtlandt Martin is Central’s star. Martin, who signed with Rend Lake College (NJCAA Division I) in Illinois, averages 19.0 points and 4.0 assists, and he scored 22 in the first encounter with New Albany. Central’s other contributors include 6-foot-5 senior forward Beau Dedmond (13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds) and guard Rashiede Bell (10.7 points), but Martin is the catalyst.

“He makes everyone else around him a lot better,” Shannon said. “He can penetrate, score off the dribble, he can shoot the three. He does a lot of nice things. We have to look for a way to contain him the best we can. He’s the key to the whole team.”

The same can be said about senior Leondre McBirth, New Albany’s only double-figure scorer at 16.5. McBirth was limited to eight points in the loss at Central, although Jeff Byrne hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points.

“McBirth has to play well for us to succeed,” Shannon said. “But it’s tournament time, and somebody will surprise, somebody will stick out and nobody will have seen it coming. It’s the stuff you can’t prepare for.”

The Bears got to Seymour with a dramatic 44-42 sectional victory over Evansville Harrison, rallying from 11 points down. Defense has been Central’s strength, and Hudson feels it was the key to the earlier win over New Albany

“We did a good job of trying to contain their dribble penetration,” Hudson said. “It was one of our better defensive efforts against a very disciplined team. But we know it will be a challenge. New Albany had us on the ropes, and we were fortunate to get that win.”

The regional winner will face the champion from the regional at Southport in the one-game semistate (at either Richmond or Seymour) on March 22. The IHSAA will announce the site Sunday.


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