Southport’s run ended Saturday, buried under an avalanche of Romeo Langford points (46) in top-ranked New Albany’s 82-64 Class 4A semistate win at Richmond.
Southport not only saw its 15-game winning streak snapped, but it was also something of an end of an era as senior Joey Brunk played his final game. Coach Kyle Simpson was emotional after the game when he talked about the 6-10 Butler recruit, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
“I’m really proud of him,” Simpson said. “I am. He’s a special young man. We’ve been through a lot together. Building this program hasn’t been easy. I got on my soapbox the last couple weeks and told people that he’s defended differently than anybody in the state. I know Kyle Guy is really good and people think he’s the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball, but this guy to my left (Brunk) deserves a shot as well. To do what he’s done every night and have two or three guys around him, hanging on him, kicking him and grabbing him, I’m really proud of how he kept his composure. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach him and I know we’re going to see great things from him in Butler blue.”
Despite the loss, Brunk as appreciative of the fans. The energy at the Tiernan Center – before and during the game – was electric.
“It’s definitely something you don’t want to feel when you are walking off for the last time,” Brunk said. “I will say that games like today are what you dream about. I remember dreaming about it when I was in fifth grade. You dream about playing in front of crowds like this. I mean, as far as that goes, it’s a good way to go out.”
Brunk, whose father Joe was standout at Southport in the 1970s, helped revive the Southport program. He attended Park Tudor as a freshman and transferred after Ed Schilling left to become an assistant at UCLA. Southport improved from 1-19 to 15-8 in Brunk’s sophomore year and was 23-3 last year before losing to Pike in the sectional.
This year started slowly – Southport was just 5-5 at one point after starting the season ranked No. 1 in Class 4A – but picked up in the second half. Southport won its first sectional since 2000 and first regional since 1990.
“It’s been a heck of a ride,” Brunk said. “There have been a lot of long bus trips, early mornings and late nights. I wouldn’t trade the past three years here at Southport for anything.”
Brunk finished his senior season averaging 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. He made 4-for-5 from the 3-point line on Saturday, showing off range that should be appealing at the next level.
The Cardinals will also graduate key players in Eli Walton (6.1 ppg), Luke Johnston (2.9 ppg) and David Reyes (1.7 ppg). But Southport should again be one of the area’s best teams next year, led by senior-to-be Paul Scruggs (19.0 ppg, 7.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists), as well as senior-to-be Blake Evans (6.2 ppg) and sophomore-to-be Harold Bennett (6.2 ppg).