Hundreds of Bulldog fans turned out early Friday to send the New Albany High School boys basketball team off to Indianapolis in advance of Saturday night’s 4-A championship game.
“The country’s in bad shape and the state’s going to the Dogs!” joked 1958 alum Bill Cash as he waited for the team to emerge from the school gym.
Led by head coach Jim Shannon, New Albany clinched the semi-state title last Saturday for the ninth time and the first since 1996. The team finished the regular season with a 26-1 record, winning 23 straight.
Sophomore Romeo Langford scored a school record 46 points against Southport last Saturday to lead the team to the final game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the McCutcheon Mavericks from Lafayette. The game starts at approximately 8:15 p.m.
“What can I say? It’s been a tremendous run,” said New Albany principal Janet Page. “They work hard and as coach Jim said, they’re not going up there to come back second.”
“We’re in for a tough game, there’s no question about it,” Shannon said moments before boarding the team bus. “It’s very exciting.”
MORE COVERAGE | New Albany coach Jim Shannon enjoys trek to title game
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Many fans plan to attend the game and the school’s allotment of just under 2,500 tickets sold out quickly.
“We were going to go with a bunch of friends, but when they got here to buy tickets they were gone,” said Bob Wall, a 1945 New Albany grad and self-proclaimed “Biggest Fan.”
“I don’t know if we’ll win it all, but we’ve got Romeo for two more years,” Wall said. “And we’ve got a middle school kid coming in who they say is even better.”
Bulldog Mike Maxwell leads the New Albany team from to the bus Friday morning, passing by a gantlet of fans. (By Jenna Eseray, Special to The CJ)
About 100 gathered at the school, holding signs and slapping hands with the team as they made their way to the bus parked in front of the school.
While not stopping for the sendoff, many motorists honked or lowered their windows to yell “Go Bulldogs!” as the passed.
Hundreds more fans lined the route with signs, balloons and loud cheering as the bus passed with its police and fire truck escort up Vincennes Street to Charlestown Road and ultimately I-265. Handmade signs along Charlestown Road traced the team’s season, with each individual sign listing an opponent and the final score of the game.
At the school, Lilly, a four-legged fan sporting a New Albany T-shirt, came with her owners Cami Weixler and Jose Solis. “She’s an American Staffordshire Terrier,” Weixler said. “But today she’s a New Albany Bulldog.”
“We’re not going to be able to make the game, so we came by to see the team off,” Solis said. “We’re real proud of these boys, and this coach.”
The game will be broadcast on the WNAS Network: cable channel 25, 88.1 FM radio, and live streaming on wnas.org.