Basketball coaches, who usually have their talking points memorized, always chatter about “peaking for the tournament” when the sectional starts to loom in the headlights. Bloomington North defined that Friday night.
New Albany’s description? The Bulldogs (14-6) were the dreaded deer, frozen as those headlights neared. They were road kill, as the Cougars crushed them 71-44 with a sparkling performance in all phases in the final regular-season game.
Saikou Jallow scored 20 points and Tyler Truesdel added 15 as North (12-8) tore apart the Hoosier Hills Conference champions. Once the Cougars clawed in front, they left New Albany in the exhaust dust. Concluding the regular season with a loss is bad, but doing so without being competitive is troubling.
New Albany had only the Donnie Brasco option: Forget about it.
“Just throw the tape in the garbage and move on,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “Ugly.”
How ugly? North had a 20-point lead at halftime, a 30-point lead (62-32) after three quarters. New Albany scoring leader Leondre McBirth did not score, playing only 12 minutes because of foul trouble and North’s overwhelming backcourt play.
Davon Winburn had 18 points for New Albany, but that did nothing to stop the damage. North did everything it wanted, when it wanted, on both ends. The Cougars imposed their will, dismantling and exposing the Bulldogs.
“That was probably one of our most focused, start-to-finish games we’ve had all year,” North coach Andy Hodson said. “We’ve been playing well the second half of our year. We’ve played some good basketball. I thought it was going to be a knock-down, drag-out.”
It was. North knocked ’em down and dragged ’em out.
The Cougars didn’t have a turnover in the first quarter, didn’t allow a New Albany rebound in the second. North hit 14 of 20 shots in the first half and 20 of 22 free throws overall.
“I don’t want to take anything away from what they did,” Shannon said. “They were great. They looked as good as anybody we’ve played all year. We ran into a buzz saw.”
The warning signs were there. North, 5-6 at one point this year, had won 6 of 7 before pushing 4-A No. 11 Columbus North to the limit (a 64-61 loss against superior size) in its last outing. The Cougars were celebrating Senior Night. They were primed.
“They’re better than their record indicates,” Shannon said. “They’re very good. It was methodical, the way they picked us apart. We couldn’t do anything with them. We couldn’t score, we couldn’t stop them from scoring.”
Josh Jefferson had 10 points for New Albany, which must recover quickly for its Tuesday night rematch with rival Floyd Central in the sectional at Seymour.
“They’ve probably already forgotten about it,” Shannon said, glancing at the locker room door. “I worry more about recovering.”me