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Floyd County Sports

January 4, 2014

BOYS' BASKETBALL: Bulldogs hold off Reitz at The Doghouse, 65-61

NA’s McBirth scores 17 points in final quarter

NEW ALBANY —  New Albany got off to a fast start and then held off undefeated Evansville Reitz with some efficient free-throw shooting by senior Leondre McBirth to win 65-61 on Friday night at The Doghouse. The Panthers (6-1) fell short of winning at New Albany for the first time since the 1964-65 season.

“We can’t say enough about the effort that our kids gave,” New Albany head coach Jim Shannon said. “We had a little bit of adversity to deal with. We had some kids late for practice, so we sat them the first quarter. But the other kids stepped up.”

The Bulldogs (5-1) bolted out to a 15-2 lead late in the first quarter thanks to the shooting of Dustin Cochran. The senior guard hit three 3-pointers during that stretch.

What was more amazing about the 15-2 spurt to being the game was New Albany did it without McBirth, its leading scorer. McBirth was one of the players who was benched to start the game because he was late for a recent practice. He did not enter the game until the 5:27 mark of the second quarter.

Shannon said the quick start was vital in his team hanging on to defeat Reitz.

“That’s a hard team to play for 32 minutes to come out on top,” Shannon said. “I think it was really a good thing that we got the lead because they dug into it all night.”

The Panthers, who did not lead the entire game, chipped away at the Bulldog advantage all night.

Trailing 18-4 early in the second quarter, Reitz scored 11 unanswered points to pull within three points at 18-15.

After the Bulldogs got their lead back up 28-18 in the opening stages of the third period, the Panthers trimmed their deficit down to 40-35 at the end of the stanza.

New Albany increased its lead back to 10 at 45-35 after McBirth made both ends of a one-and-one. But with 2:45 left in regulation, junior forward Nate Hansen nailed a 3-pointer to pull Reitz to within 53-52. That would be the closest the Panthers got.

With the Bulldogs leading 63-59, Reitz junior Mario Barnes made a layup with 12.6 seconds left.

Then with about five ticks remaining, junior guard Jaelan Sanford almost nailed a 3-pointer off a turnover to give Reitz the lead. The ball bounced out of bounds to New Albany.

McBirth iced the game with 3.5 seconds left as he knocked down two free throws to put the Bulldogs up by four.

McBirth scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. In the stanza, he was 15-of-18 from the stripe.

“They are one of the best teams in the state — that’s how they got back into it,” Shannon said about Reitz. “They are eventually going to get back into the game. You’re not going to see them get beat 15-20 points all year long.”

Cochran wound up with 15 points, shooting 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Cochran, who also grabbed five rebounds, drew praise from Shannon for his overall game on Friday.

“Dustin ran the floor great again. He’s been doing that all year,” Shannon said. “He’s shooting with confidence and passing it very well. He’s an all-around really nice point guard. He’s doing it all and holding us together.”

Also for New Albany, junior forward DeAnthony Warren grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, and freshman guard Isaac Hibbard and senior forward Jeff Byrne each distributed four assists.

The Bulldogs will travel to Castle tonight.

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