NEW ALBANY, Ind. — It had been a while since the New Albany High School boys’ basketball team found itself in a close game, but the Bulldogs still remembered how to pull out a close one.
Junior Romeo Langford scored 33 points to lead the host Bulldogs (12-2) to a 76-61 victory over a game Silver Creek (9-5) squad in front of more than 4,100 fans Friday night.
The Bulldogs, winners of nine straight and the No. 2 team in the Associated Press’ Class 4-A poll, won by double digits for the seventh straight time. However, this game was hardly like the others during their current run.
For starters, Silver Creek started hot. The Dragons made 10 of their first 13 shots and led for most of the second quarter. A Jack Hawkins 3-pointer with 5:49 left in the first half gave the Dragons a 28-19 lead and serious thoughts about their first victory over New Albany in 19 years.
“I was really proud of how our guys competed,” Dragons coach Brandon Hoffman said. “I think making shots fueled that.”
But the Bulldogs rallied behind their superstar. The 6-5 swingman scored 12 of his points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining that gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 36-35, since the end of the first quarter.
Since losing two in a row last month – to top-ranked Indianapolis North Central and USA TODAY Super 25 No. 2 La Porte La Lumiere – the Bulldogs have returned to their winning ways. New Albany didn’t just come into Friday night on a winning streak. The Bulldogs came in dominating. Before playing the Dragons, their last six victories were by an average of 33.7 points.
After beating Jeffersonville 67-56 two weeks ago, the Bulldogs’ last three victories have been by a combined 156 points. But with 3:20 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs found themselves tied at 50 against their Class 3-A guests. Langford responded with a trey from the corner and the Bulldogs never trailed again.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt anything to be challenged,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said.
Isaac Hibbard added 21 for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Zane Gross led Silver Creek with 16 points and Hunter Popp finished with 14.
Silver Creek’s previous four losses, including one last Friday to Class 3-A No. 2 Brownstown, were by a combined 15 points. Hoffman said his team didn’t come to New Albany, which has now won 55 of the 59 matchups between the schools, with thoughts of being intimidated.
A big blow for the Dragons came midway in the third quarter, when senior guard Cameron Stephens picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. Hoffman said his team struggled without their floor leader on the court for the rest of the period, and Langford agreed.
“We weren’t really getting too much pressure, being able to speed them up when (Stephens) had the ball,” Langford said.
The Bulldogs play again Saturday and resume action against 4-A competition as they travel to Evansville Reitz. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. The Dragons play host to Providence in their next game, scheduled for Tuesday.
NEW ALBANY 71, SILVER CREEK 56
SILVER CREEK (9-5)
Zane Gross 16p. Josh Landers 6p, Cameron Stephens 10p, Hunter Popp 14p, Bennett Beyl 3p, Jack Hawkins 10p, Jacob Garrett 2p.
NEW ALBANY (12-2)
Julien Hunter 5p, Derrick Stevenson 9p, Romeo Langford 33p, Sean East 8p, Isaac Hibbard 21 p.