By JON REITER
NEW ALBANY —
After a 26-point loss to archrival Jeffersonville last weekend, New Albany boys’ basketball coach Jim Shannon decided it was time for some wholesale changes in the Bulldog lineup.
Shannon inserted sophomores Jeff Byrne and Chad Hudson and junior Javen Reeves into starting roles, and although the transition wasn’t seamless, New Albany defeated visiting Madison 56-48 in the Doghouse on Friday.
“We feel like the kids we inserted in the lineup played their hearts out,” said Shannon, whose Bulldogs are 5-5 overall and 3-2 in the Hoosier Hills Conference. “I think they got us going tonight. You’re talking about throwing two sophomores and a junior into a tough situation, but really it needed to be done.”
Byrne, along with regular starter Jermaine Parrish, led the Bulldogs with 13 points, scoring 11 in the first half as New Albany blazed to a 33-18 lead at intermission. Hudson added three points and five assists, and Reeves grabbed seven rebounds and tied up Madison guard Ryan Thurston on Madison’s side of the court for a jump ball and New Albany possession late in the game to help secure the win.
Thurston, who led all scorers with 20 points, helped tighten the game in the second half, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to help draw the Cubs (5-5, 1-3 HHC) to 43-36 with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Twice in the fourth quarter, Madison closed to within six. It was 52-46 after Cubs guard Nick Macon nailed a 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds remaining, but Parrish and Byrne went 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the closing seconds to finish the visitors off.
Madison coach Pat King said that while he was unhappy about the loss, he noted that it came with leading scorer Landon Perry sidelined with a knee injury and that his squad battled back from an 18-point first half deficit to provide a few anxious moments in the Doghouse.
The Cubs outscored New Albany 30-21 in the second half.
“We’re going to walk out of here pretty happy tonight,” King said. “One of the things we talked about prior to the game is that we had to weather the storm we knew was coming, and for the most part we did that. The storm hit us in the second quarter. But I thought we did a good job keeping our composure and am pretty proud of how we responded.”
Thurston nailed 5-of-9 shots from 3-point range and the Cubs were 8-of-21 from beyond the arc. One place where they were outclassed against the Bulldogs was on the boards, where they were outbattled 28-19.
Garrett Arnold — one of New Albany’s starters who was replaced — came off the Bulldog bench to score 10 points for the Bulldogs. Leondre McBirth — the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer behind Parrish — only scored one basket but suffered a nasty fall underneath the New Albany basket in the second quarter and spent most of the game on the sideline nursing an injury to his wrist.
Shannon, whose troops play tonight at Scottsburg, said he would likely stick with the lineup changes he made last night against the Warriors.
“We’ll probably keep it how it is,” he said. “For now.”