SEYMOUR, Ind. – In New Albany, the drought is over.
For the first time since 2008, the New Albany High School boys’ basketball team will be traveling to Class 4-A semi-state.
The top-ranked Bulldogs stamped their final four ticket with a 84-70 win over No. 7 Evansville Reitz Saturday night in the finals of the Seymour Regional. Top college prospect Romeo Langford continued to play a key role in his team’s success, scoring a game-high 37 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.
“When you’ve beaten Bloomington South and Evansville Reitz in the same day, you’ve earned a trip to the semi-state,” said New Albany coach Jim Shannon. “Those are two of the best coaches (South’s J.R. Holmes and Reitz’ Michael Adams) to ever coach in this state. … The kids have earned it.”
New Albany (25-1), winners of 22 straight, now will face Southport (21-6) Saturday afternoon at Richmond. Southport advanced with a 74-44 win over Terre Haute South.
The regional title is New Albany’s 17th overall.
“We were overdue,” Shannon said matter-of-factly. “So we got that monkey off our back a little bit, and just go play. We need to keep doing what we’ve doing. We’re just winning. We’re in the final four, but we’re not satisfied.”
Reitz (22-4) appeared to be paying particular attention to New Albany’s sensational sophomore Langford in the first quarter, when Langford, who averages 29.2 points, scored just two points. Langford said he didn’t want to force anything.
“I just wanted to let the game come to me,” Langford said.
With that opening created by attention paid to Langford, New Albany’s junior guard Isaac Hibbard took advantage, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring eight points in the first quarter. By halftime, Hibbard had scored 14 of his 16 points.
“I got some open shots,” Hibbard said. “I’m just glad we got some momentum at the start.”
“Hibbard was phenomenal today,” Shannon said. “He’s the reason we built that lead. Honest to goodness, he played great. In the second half, they paid all kinds of attention to him.”
In the second quarter, Langford started to warm up as he scored 15 of his game-high 37 points.
“Romeo was just getting the ball to every one and then he took off,” Hibbard. “He’s a great teammate.”
The Bulldogs led 41-31 at the break.
The Panthers, meanwhile, stayed without shouting distance behind the offense product of Blake Rickman (32 points) and Evansville signee Dru Smith (18 points). New Albany only led 63-58 with 5:06 left in the game. The Bulldogs then put the hammer down with a decisive 15-2 run as Reitz managed just two free throws over a four-minute stretch.
Class 4-A Seymour Regional Championship
New Albany (25-1): Langford 37, Pratt-Thomas 6, East 4, Hibbard 16, Maxwell 17, Jefferson 4.
Evansville Reitz (22-5): I. Dunham 4, Ruckman 32, Smith 18, E. Dunham 2, McHugh 6, Blackwell 6, Mahan 2.
3-point goals: Langford 4, Hibbard 2, Ruckman 5, Smith 4, Blackwell.