Wherefore art thou Romeo? Romeo Langford, that is. He had fouled out with 4:03 left. But the Bulldogs proved, as their coach stated, they are much more than the Langford Show. Down by four points late, New Albany rallied for a 72-68 victory at No. 11 Bloomington South and started the year with a quality road victory.
Langford, after scoring 18 points, fouled out with 4:03 left, with the Panthers (1-1) holding a 56-54 lead. Josh Hall’s layup doubled that difference, and the Bulldogs appeared to be in trouble. They were bailed out by others, as Isaac Hibbard (24 points) and Josh Jefferson (15 points) stepped into the leadership void and made huge contributions.
So did senior Adrian Pratt-Thomas, who scored 10 points and converted a three-point play that started the New Albany comeback. Jefferson followed with a layup and 3-pointer for a 62-60 advantage, and the Bulldogs scored their final 10 points at the free-throw line .
“It’s a credit to the kids,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “We didn’t quit. They had a lot of poise late in the game.”
South lost its focus, figuring the final Langford foul was a death sentence. Instead, the Panthers suffered a letdown that allowed the Bulldogs to escape.
“We celebrated a little too early,” South coach J.R. Holmes said. “We had guys who had never been there against varsity competition. It’s a game, on your home court, you think you would have an awfully good chance to win.”
South did have a great chance. New Albany started cold against South’s zone and settled for a lot of perimeter shots as the Panthers, powered by senior guard Tucker Blackwell, moved in front. Blackwell scored 26 points and was a constant piercing point against New Albany’s suspect defense.
“I thought we were really bad defensively,” Shannon said. “We gave up a lot of driving lanes.”
Hibbard did a lot of damage, hitting four 3-pointers. Jefferson, who had struggled during the first three quarters, had 10 points in the final period. Langford sat out all but 1:31 in the fourth, and yet the Bulldogs still found a way to beat South for the fourth straight time in the series.
“Isaac showed a lot of poise,” Shannon said. “He wanted the ball in his hands. He did a great job, he was smart.
“ It wasn’ one of Romeo’s better nights. There again – 18 points. When those two (Langford and Jefferson) are going at the same time, that’s why we’re ranked the way we are. When they’re not, I don’t know why we’re ranked. We didn’t get them both clicking, so we struggled.”
Hall added 20 points and 13 rebounds for South.
Justin Sokeland can be contacted at jsokeland @courier-journal.com
New Albany 72, Bloomington South 68
New Albany (1-0) â€“ Romeo Langford 18, Josh Jefferson 15, Isaac Hibbard 24, Sean East 3, Adrian Pratt-Thomas 10, Rondale Moore 2.
Bloomington South (1-1) â€“ Josh Hall 20, Hunter Loyd 5, Chance Coyle 6, Tucker Blackwell 26, Phillip King 7, Ben Chasteen 1, Alex Franklin 3.
3-pointers â€“ Langford 2, Jefferson 2, Hibbard 4, East 1, Pratt-Thomas 1, Blackwell 3, Franklin 1