New Albany’s girls basketball team huddled near center court Wednesday evening. The Bulldogs were fresh off a sizeable win, which secured a perfect record at home ahead of a two-game stretch on the road to conclude regular-season play.
When the huddle broke, as players began to depart for the locker room, senior forward Chyna Anthony stood by. It wasn’t long before junior forward Julyen Condra and sophomore guard Alayasia Douglas stopped to console the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-1 star. After a 26-point, 10-rebound performance in a win at The Doghouse, she began to tear up.
Wednesday night, a 69-48 victory over Columbus East, marked the final home game for six New Albany seniors, including Anthony.
“I felt set free,” Anthony said. “That was my last home game on the New Albany floor. I mean, I’m still going to practice, but I’ll never play a game with these girls here again. That’s a big part of where I’m at today, because they’re my family. They’re my sisters. I would not be the person I am without them.”
Directly overhead on the Bulldogs’ catwalk, senior point guard Marissa Jones couldn’t help but feel the same way. As usual, the floor general had been summoned by the radio crew after a strong performance. Jones dished out 12 assists to help pace the Bulldogs to victory, but something was different.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Jones said. “You’re a freshman, and you don’t think this is going to happen as fast as it does. I still feel like I should be a sophomore or freshman at this point. Now, this is my last home game here. I did my last radio interview today. It’s a lot.”
Anthony and Jones have played their final home game for New Albany, but their presence within the program won’t soon be forgotten. The duo went 8-13 as freshmen, but the Bulldogs are 44-22 in two-plus seasons since, steadily improving each year.
Now 14-5 this season, New Albany is on pace to best last year’s record. The Bulldogs have won eight of their past 10 games and four straight by an average of more than 24 points. As freshmen, Jones said, the Bulldogs, “weren’t feared enough,” but with the duo in its fourth and final year, New Albany is the one with a target on its back.
“We’ve changed the way people look at New Albany girls basketball,” Jones said, “and I’m glad I could be a part of that.”
The impact Anthony and Jones have on any given outing is evident on the stat sheet. In a 69-52 win over Charlestown on Tuesday – the Bulldogs’ senior night, despite a rescheduled home game Wednesday evening – Anthony, a Northern Kentucky signee, poured in a career-high 32 points to accompany 11 rebounds. In the past four games, Jones has racked up an eye-opening 61 assists.
The long-standing chemistry between one another allows Anthony and Jones to be effective leaders on and off the court, according to New Albany coach Tammy Geron.
“These two are pretty special. … I think they’ve developed a bond,” Geron said, “not just between the two of them but with our program, with our kids, with me. That carries over to the floor – when you have that trust with each other and that loyalty and respect. I want them to have the opportunity to cut down nets and have that experience as I had in high school, and I think that they want it just as much for me as a coach, to win one. That’s a mutual love-respect relationship you have between coach and player.”
Next up for New Albany (14-5, 3-1 Hoosier Hills) is a rivalry bout at Jeffersonville (13-7, 6-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Red Devils own a 15-6 series lead in the past 15 years, but it’s tied 4-4 dating back to 2011.
“There’s mutual respect between the programs,” Geron said. “Our kids play against each other in the offseason, and play with each other as well. I definitely think there is some mutual respect there, but I think the fire is deep. As a coach, you try to control those emotions as much as you can Friday night, but they’re going to be there. It should be a good game.”
The Bulldogs claimed last year’s regular-season meeting with the Red Devils before Jeffersonville ousted New Albany in sectional play. That loss, Anthony said, “still burns” for the Bulldogs, so with a sectional championship on the to-do list for New Albany’s seniors, it’s no secret Jones and Co. want revenge.
“We’ve got it out for them,” Jones said, “and I know they’re going to give us their best shot.”
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