No. 3 Bulldogs' Romeo Langford leads the way with 28 points
The last time New Albany played Evansville Reitz, the Panthers ended the Bulldogs’ season in last years regional semifinal. Wednesday’s rematch at New Albany had the feel of a regional game as the No. 3 Bulldogs held off the visiting No. 5 Panthers, 72-63, behind 28 points from star Romeo Langford.
The Bulldogs improved to 7-1. The Panthers fell to 8-2.
For much of the game, Reitz had New Albany out of sorts, out of rhythm and out of their comfort zone. New Albany looked like the team trying too hard, and Reitz looked like they had everything in control.
The first period ended in a 19-19 tie, and the biggest separation between the two teams came when Reitz jumped out to an 8-4 lead early. The Panthers hit three three-pointers, while the Bulldogs were off target from long distance until Josh Jefferson (15 points) hit one at the end of the period.
PHOTO GALLERY | New Albany takes down Evansville Reitz
That’s when Reitz began to pull away. The Panthers scored 10 of the first 13 points in the second to take a 29-22 lead. The Bulldogs were able to cut it to five at the half when Langford’s dunk made it 34-28.
For much of the third period, the Bulldogs looked poised offensively, but five times they scored on the Panthers, and five times the Panthers answered back. When Jyrus Freels scored inside, the visitors led 44-38 and looked quite comfortable trading baskets.
The Bulldogs finally were able to get some stops as they scored nine of the next 11 points. Six of those were by Langford, who scored 21 of his points in the second half. He was locked in a duel with Reitz’s Dru Smith, who led the Bulldogs with 23 points.
Langford’s two free throws finished off the 9-2 run and gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the end of the first period at 47-46.
But the Panthers weren’t going away. Smith made two free throws, Blake Ruckman scored on a drive and then Tamaje Blackwell hit a three to put Reitz up 56-52.
The Bulldogs had one last run in them, and this one allowed them to win the game. Isaac Hibbard (16 points) hit a three and then a layup to cut the lead to one. It was part of a 10-2 run that put New Albany in front 62-58.
The rest of the game was intense. Two technical were called on the Panthers, the second one by far the costliest. Ruckman had just gotten fouled on a three-point attempt when Elijah Dunham apparently said something to the referee. After Ruckman sank all three of his free throws to cut the lead to 67-63, Langford calmly sank the two technical free throws on the other end to finish off the visitors.
It was the fourth straight win for the Bulldogs, who face Jeffersonville on Jan. 8.
Evansville Reitz (8-2): Dru Smith 23, Jarod McHugh 14, Tamaje Blackwell 7, Jyrus Freels 6, Blake Ruckman 5, Jonathan Springer 3, Elijah Dunham 3, Isaiah Dunham 2.
New Albany (7-1): Romeo Langford 28, Isaac Hibbard 16, Josh Jefferson 15, Michael Maxwell 8, Adrian Pratt-Thomas 5.
Three-pointers: Evansville Reitz 7 (McHugh 2, Blackwell 2, E. Dunham 1, Springer 1, Smith 1). New Albany 3 (Jefferson 2, Hibbard 1)