SEYMOUR, Ind. – After it was over, Romeo Langford stood in front of the scorer’s table and unwrapped the tape from his wrists. There was bedlam all around the New Albany star — isn’t there always? — as he stood and waited to shake hands with the Warren Central players.
Langford finally made a beeline for the corner of the 8,100-capacity Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, site of so many wonderful moments and tournament wins in his high school career. A few moments later, amid the celebrating Warren Central fans, David Bell scanned the court looking for Langford. Bell took off running into the same corner of the gym. He found Langford in the New Albany locker room and shook his hand.
“I just wanted to tell him good game and good luck next year in college,” Bell said. “Playing against the top player in the country, it was amazing.”
It was an amazing day. An amazing finish. Langford, the top basketball player in the state. Bell, the top football player in the state. A gym packed to capacity with 8,100 fans that sounded like 50,000. With 4.6 seconds left and the score tied, Bell took the in-bounds pass, drove the length of the court and dribbled up the right side with Langford on his left hip. As another defender approached, Bell jumped off his left foot from the right elbow and lofted the ball toward the basket.
It glanced softly off the glass and nestled through the net just as the buzzer sounded. Final: Warren Central 64, New Albany 62. The most-anticipated game of the year lived up to the billing in the Class 4A semistate. Top-ranked and undefeated Warren Central (31-0) will face Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel (21-7) on Saturday night for the Class 4A title.
“We wanted the ball in David’s hands,” Warren Central coach Criss Beyers said. “He had Dean (Tate) in one corner and Cush (Antwaan Cushingberry) in the other. He’s our best finisher. Thank God he made the right decision.”
As Warren Central’s fans raced on to the court, New Albany’s huge contingent watched in stunned silence. So many times in four seasons, they had watched Langford and senior teammate Sean East close the door on opponents in games like this. They had won 100 of 109 games in four seasons before Saturday. But this one hurt. It hurt for a lot of reasons — a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, a state finals appearance on the line, a turnover with 4.6 seconds left. Most of all, it hurt because it was the end of an era.