By JON REITER
NEW ALBANY —
The New Albany boys’ basketball squad faced off against a team from Evansville for the second time in a week as Evansville North invaded the Doghouse on Friday.
Different opponent, different result.
After losing by five on Tuesday night to Evansville Harrison, New Albany (10-3) jumped out to a sizable early lead and cruised to a 66-36 win over the 4-7 Huskies.
“Anytime you’re playing an Evansville school, you’re going to get a challenge because the Evansville schools are up,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “North isn’t but they were missing two starters and they’ve played a tough schedule. I think we did a good job tonight, we played a lot better than we did the other night, but we have a long way to go.”
Senior guard Leondre McBirth scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first half to lead New Albany to the win. McBirth had a steal and dunk that punctuated a 15-3 run that extended from late in the first quarter until 3:20 in the second and gave New Albany a 24-13 lead.
“Early on, I think he was settling for 3s, the whole team was doing that,” said Shannon, who has been battling the flu for the last week. “I think later on, we started going towards the basket a little bit. I think we played our best basketball in the last half of the third quarter into the fourth.”
It was 31-17 New Albany at halftime. Following back-to-back baskets from Huskies forward Jesse Millikan, North brought it to within 10 at 33-23 with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Following a 17-footer from McBirth, a 3-pointer from Dustin Cochran and another short jumper in the lane from McBirth, the Bulldogs held a 40-23 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
New Albany blew the Huskies out in the fourth quarter behind the shooting of junior forward Jeff Byrne. Byrne scored 15 of his 17 points on 5 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc, with his last one coming from the top of the key with just over three minutes remaining. Prior to that final shot, Byrne clapped for the ball to come his way and coolly sank the jumper, giving New Albany a 62-33 lead.
Freshman guard Isaac Hibbard also nailed a 3-pointer during the 18-4 run in the fourth quarter, and Shannon pointed out that McBirth was playing the point through that sequence, allowing both Hibbard and Byrne good looks at the basket.
“That was pretty nice for us — fun to watch,” Shannon said.
Cochran added 11 points for New Albany. Another huge advantage the Bulldogs enjoyed over the Huskies was on the glass, as they outrebounded Evansville North 36-17. Jalen Reeves and McBirth grabbed seven rebounds apiece, and five New Albany players had at least seven rebounds.
New Albany’s three-game homestand continues tonight as Jasper (6-6) visits.
NEW ALBANY 66, EVANSVILLE NORTH 36
New Albany 17 14 15 22—66
Ev. North 9 8 9 10—36
New Albany (10-3): McBirth 18, White 2, Reeves 4, Cochran 11, Warren 3, Hibbard 5, Winburn 3, Hickman 0, Byrne 17, Jefferson 3, Martin 0.
Evansvile North (4-6): Millikan 4, Mulherin 11, West 2, Gulledge 2, Dixon 11, Sherman 5, Hagedorn 1.
Rebounds: New Albany 36 (Reeves, McBirth 7); Evansville North 17 (Mulherin, Sherman 4).
Free throws: New Albany 4-5; Evansville North 4-6.
3-point field goals: New Albany 10 (Cochran 2, Byrne 5, Winburn, Hibbard, Jefferson); Evansville North 2 (Mulherin, Sherman).
Turnovers: New Albany 8; Evansville North 13.