New Albany’s basketball program suffered its first defeat in 363 days Saturday afternoon, and it’s not slated to get any easier for the Bulldogs in the coming week.
The defending 4A state champions will step into the spotlight for a showdown with prep power La Lumiere, one of the nation’s top teams, at New Castle Fieldhouse – the largest high school gym in the country – 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.
The matchup features some of nation’s top players within their respective classes in New Albany’s Romeo Langford and La Lumiere five-star guard Brian Bowen, the 13th-ranked player in the Class of 2017, per ESPN. La Lumiere also boasts five-star Michigan State commit Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 26), four-star Jordan Poole (No. 58) and five-star Tyger Campbell (No. 25 in 2019).
The Lakers (9-0) are ranked No. 1 in USA TODAY’s High School Sports Super 25. The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 Hoosier Hills), No. 13 in last week’s poll, dropped out following Saturday’s loss to North Central.
“It will be a tough game, but I think it will be good for our community to play a top-notch team – not only in our state but in our country,” coach Jim Shannon told The Courier-Journal after scheduling the prep power in November. “I know they get players from all over the U.S., but I still think it will be a heck of a challenge for us.”
The bout is the first of a two-game ESPN high school showcase lineup on Thursday, with third-ranked Sierra Canyon (Calif.) vs. No. 2 Oak Hill Academy to follow. Sierra Canyon features Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 recruit ahead of Langford in the 2018 class, while Oak Hill has seniors Billy Preston (No. 20), Matt Coleman (No. 27) and Lindell Wigginton (No. 49).
New Albany dropped a 84-60 decision to then-No. 2 North Central Saturday. It ended the Bulldogs’ 27-game win streak, which tied a school record. Langford poured in 30 points for New Albany, while UCLA commit Kris Wilkes tallied 32 for the Panthers. A win Thursday would make Shannon the state’s 12th active coach to reach the 500-win mark. He’s 499-237 overall in 33 seasons and 334-98 in his 19th year with the Bulldogs.
Other games to watch
► Providence at Floyd Central: The Highlanders (2-1, 0-1 HHC) are just 1-4 in their past five against the Pioneers (5-0), but the series is knotted at 10-10 dating back to 1996. The two meet again Friday at 7:30 p.m. Floyd Central is fresh off a loss to New Albany.
Sophomore forward Cobie Barnes is averaging 14.7 points per game for the Highlanders’ balanced offense. Senior guards Juston Betz and Eli Coker are catalysts for Providence. The Pioneers turn around and travel to Charlestown (2-3, 2-1 Mid-Southern) for a game Saturday night. The Pirates topped Providence 40-32 last season.
► Jeffersonville at Silver Creek: The Red Devils, who improved to 4-1 and 2-0 in HHC play over the weekend, will look to snap a two-game losing streak to the Dragons (4-2, 2-1 MSC) Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Silver Creek topped Jeffersonville 58-44 in 2015 and 66-58 in 2014. Prior to that skid, the Red Devils were 19-1 against the Dragons dating back to 1994. Silver Creek then hosts Bedford North Lawrence on Saturday. Silver Creek edged the Stars 62-61 last season.
► Washington County Invitational: Borden (6-0), West Washington (4-1), Salem (2-1) and Eastern (0-5) are set to take part in the county’s annual holiday tournament, with the Musketeers hosting.
The Braves and Senators – both receiving votes in the latest 1A AP poll – kick off tournament play at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Lions and Musketeers will follow, and the winners and losers play in a championship and consolation game, respectively, Saturday evening beginning at 6 p.m.
► Evansville North at New Albany: New Albany’s girls team can shake up the state rankings with a win over visiting North on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Both teams received votes in Sunday’s Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Top 20. The Huskies (10-1) and Bulldogs (8-3, 1-1 HHC) rank 31st and 35th overall, respectively, in the latest Sagarin ratings.