The Indiana High School Athletic Association announced its 2016-17 boys basketball state tournament pairings on Sunday evening, giving local teams – including defending Class 4-A state champion New Albany – a look at their postseason fate.
The third-ranked Bulldogs (20-3) drew Jennings County (13-9) in the bottom half of the Class 4-A Sectional 15 at Seymour, and the winner will advance to a semifinal matchup against Bedford North Lawrence (8-15). In the top half, Floyd Central (18-3), winner of 14 straight, drew the bye and will await the winner of Jeffersonville (14-8) versus Seymour (8-12). Sectional play will begin Tuesday, Feb. 28 and run through Saturday, March 4.
New Albany, winner of three straight sectional crowns and six consecutive tournament games – good for fourth and second in the state, respectively – is 5-0 against sectional opponents this season. The Bulldogs have won 51 sectional titles all-time.
“I’m getting too old to hope and pray for anything as far as the draw goes,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “Here’s the way I do it: If you get the bye, you’re happy. If you don’t get the bye, you’re happy – because you can’t do anything about it. … I think the draw is fine. We’re going to have to win three games to win it, we’ve done it before. It’s not like it’ll be the first time. We have to take them one at a time, certainly.”
Without junior Romeo Langford, New Albany cruised to an 84-55 win over Jennings County on Feb. 2. The Bulldogs’ five-star guard returned eight days later – and totaled 76 points in two games last weekend – but Shannon said anything goes during tournament play.
“We’ve beaten everybody in the sectional,” Shannon said. “It doesn’t mean you’re automatically just going to roll up and win it. We understand that. … We’re excited. It’s that time of year.”
A bye could prove vital for the streaking Highlanders, who have played four games in eight days, including two overtime victories. The top-half draw, opposite of the defending state champions, doesn’t hurt, either, Floyd Central coach Todd Sturgeon said. The Highlanders dropped a 68-46 decision to New Albany in last season’s postseason opener. Still, the unknowns of the draw make for an unpredictable result.
“I think it’s dangerous to look at if you got a good draw or not because you just don’t know,” Sturgeon said. “So you have to play whoever gets you. You’d be lying – I think everybody would – by not saying that, the defending state champion in your sectional, you’re happy about them being on the other side of the bracket. … We got a bye. That’s supposed to be a good thing, although sometimes getting in there, playing early and building up some momentum with an early win can be good, so you just never know.”
With the help of its recent unbeaten streak, Floyd Central can clinch a share of a Hoosier Hills Conference title with a win on Wednesday at Columbus East. The Highlanders, who are 4-1 versus sectional foes, will then have more than a week of preparation time at their disposal ahead of sectional play. The time is invaluable if used properly, Sturgeon said.
“It’ll be nice if we use it well,” Sturgeon said. “You can, in theory, get rested, get really well prepared, have a chance to scout the team you’re going to play. So in theory, it’s nice, but if we don’t take advantage of it, whoever we play will have worked out those first-game jitters already.”
Jeffersonville, much like Floyd Central, has hit its stride as of late. The Red Devils have belted out six straight wins after suffering four consecutive defeats in mid-January. Jeffersonville concludes regular-season play, though, at Class 3-A No. 9 Salem (18-2) and at Class 4-A No. 8 Castle (19-3). The Red Devils handled their first-round opponent, Seymour, 63-46 back on Dec. 9.
Class 4-A Sectional 15 at Seymour
Feb. 28: Jeffersonville vs. Seymour 6 p.m.; New Albany vs. Jennings County, 7:30 p.m.
March 3: Jeffersonville-Seymour winner vs. Floyd Central, 6 p.m.; New Albany-Jennings County winner vs. Bedford North Lawrence, 7:30 p.m.
March 4: Final at 7:30