RICHMOND, Ind. — New Albany boys basketball coach Jim Shannon is racking his brain, trying to find more superlatives to describe his sensational sophomore Romeo Langford.
Langford made Shannon’s job just a little more difficult after he exploded for a new school record with 46 points as the top-ranked Bulldogs blitzed Southport 82-64 Saturday afternoon at a Class 4-A semi-state game at Richmond.
New Albany (26-1) — winner of 23 straight — advances to the state title game on March 26 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 8:15 p.m. The Bulldogs will face the winner of Saturday’s other semi-state game between McCutheon and Warsaw.
The semi-state title is New Albany’s ninth and first since 1996.
“It’s very special,” Shannon said of the semi-state win. “It’s a long time coming. … It’s really tough to do at the 4-A level.”
Langford, who seemed to have unlimited range against Southport, hit 15 of 24 shots, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
“He just keeps climbing that ladder,” Shannon said. “He’ll do something crazy and you think it’s another day for Romeo. But I think he went up another rung today. I think the competition brought it out of him today.
Southport features Butler signee Joey Brunk and a highly regarded junior in Paul Scruggs.
“I think the only difference in the game is right there,” Shannon said, pointing toward his lanky superstar. “I just think he’s special. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime. He will be mentioned with the greatest names out there when he leaves. … He would’ve been special wherever he went.”
Langford admitted he was geared up for the semi-state battle.
“I was extremely excited,” Langford said. “I knew it was going to be a packed house. I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game. … When I hit my first shot, it felt good.”
Shannon said he tries to get Langford in spots where he can touch the ball.
“(Then), I’m smart enough to get out of his way,” the coach said. “I don’t say much to him. I don’t have to.”
Langford scored 25 points in the first half and New Albany led 42-32. In the third quarter, Langford added 18 more.
When Langford hit three straight 3-pointers in the third quarter, he stood at 43 points and the Bulldogs led 63-42 with 2:25 left in the quarter.
“I think they (the Cardinals) got away from what they wanted to do once we started to stroke it,” Shannon said.
The rest of the way, he settled for three free throws.
“That’s the best game he’s had with us,” said Isaac Hibbard, one of Langford’s best friends.
“He’s tremendous player and he had a great day,” Southport coach Kyle Simpson said. “Actually, he had better than a great day. He had an outstanding day. … He was on. It happens in March, unfortunately, sometimes.”
Brunk, a 6-foot-10 talented center, led the Cardinals (22-7) with 22 points, hitting 4 of 5 from three-point range.
Scruggs added 19 points for Southport.
For the Bulldogs, Josh Jefferson added 11 points and five assists. Michael Maxwell chipped in 10 points.
Southport (22-7) – Scruggs 19, Evans 6, Johnston 2, Walton 9, Brunk 22, Bennett 3, Reyes 3.
New Albany (26-1) – Langford 46, East 8, Hubbard 7, Maxwell 10, Jefferson 11.
3-point goals – Scruggs 3, Walton 3, Brunk 4, Bennett, Reyes, Langford 8, East, Jefferson 2.