NEW ALBANY —
If there is one Evansville Central player who New Albany coach Jim Shannon and his coaching staff are worried about entering Saturday’s Class 4A Seymour Regional semifinals, it is point guard Kourtlandt Martin.
The Bulldogs (17-6) will face the 6-foot-1 senior guard and the Bears (16-6) in the regional opener at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Bloomington North (14-8) will play last year’s regional runner-up Franklin Central (13-10) in the second semifinal at about 12:30 p.m. The championship game will be at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Martin scored a game-high 22 points in the Bears’ 47-44 home victory over the Bulldogs on Feb. 15. Martin leads Evansville Central in scoring (19 points per game), assists (four per contest) and steals (2.3 a game).
Shannon says Martin does a great job beating opposing players off the dribble and is capable of knocking down shots from behind the 3-point arc.
“His strength is his penetration. Occasionally, he shoots 3s,” Shannon said. “He’s an excellent point guard and he will be a handful for us. We can’t let Martin go crazy. We’ve got to contain him. Then after that, we’ve got to stop their dribble penetration.”
Martin is not the only Bear that concerns Shannon.
Central has two other players who are double-figure scorers. Six-foot-five senior forward Beau Dedmond averages 13.3 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds a contest. Junior Rashiede Bell, a 6-3 guard, scores 10.7 points per clip and distributes 2.8 assists a game. Bell also averages 2.1 steals per game.
“Both of those guys can be matchup problems for us because they can score,” Shannon said. “Dedmond provides a tough matchup with his size. We’ve got to watch Bell off the bounce. He’s very quick.”
Shannon says the Bears, who average 62.1 points per contest, are a team that normally likes to score from their half-court offense. But he also states that Central wants to score off transition when the opportunity presents itself.
“They don’t turn the ball over. They’re somewhat methodical on offense,” Shannon said. “They want to find good shots. They run lots of sets. But they’re not a slow-down team. They can definitely push it.”
Fourth-year Bears’ coach Scott Hudson has his own concerns about New Albany. The Bulldogs’ quickness, especially on defense, and their shooting ability are a couple of things that impress Hudson.
“We think New Albany presents a lot of challenges to our basketball team,” Hudson said. “They have good shooters and quickness, which can always put pressure on a team defending them. They play very hard and disciplined and know how to win. They are a very good defensive team that seems to be very active and quick to the ball.”
The one Bulldog who should get a lot of attention from Central is Leondre McBirth. The 6-1 senior guard leads New Albany in scoring (16.5 ppg) and assists (2.5). McBirth also grabs four rebounds per contest.
The Bears did a great job of keeping New Albany’s talented and experienced guard in check in their regular-season meeting. McBirth scored just eight points in the three-point loss.
“He is a player who always seems to be ready to score or attack, but we might have just caught him on an off day [on Feb. 15],” Hudson said. “The main concern was just attempting to keep him out of rhythm.”
Central won its first sectional championship in 10 years last Saturday, defeating Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Harrison in the Evansville North Sectional final 44-42.
Hudson says his players are thrilled to still be competing in the state tournament.
“Even though we have to drive quite a distance, we would go to the Grand Canyon as long as we are still one of the 64 teams left,” Hudson said. “Our keys all year have been probably like any team who is fortunate enough to still be playing — just be consistent and play as a team for 32 minutes or you will be watching instead of playing. New Albany has great tradition and an outstanding coach, so we are tickled to death just to be playing.”
McBirth is the Bulldogs’ only double-figure scorer. But New Albany, which averages 57.7 points per game, has four players who each score more than six points per contest.
Senior guard Dustin Cochran averages 7.7 points per contest, while junior forward DeAnthony Warren tallies 7.3 per game. Warren also is the Bulldogs’ leading rebounder at five boards per game.
Junior guard Davon Winburn averages 7.1 points per game, while junior forward Jeff Byrne has a 6.2 average. Byrne had a team-high 17 points in New Albany’s previous matchup with Central.
Shannon thinks the key to New Albany’s offense being productive against Central is passing the ball effectively, no matter what defense the Bulldogs face.
“We’ve got to work the basketball. We feel we’ve got to do that whether they are going to play man-to-man or zone,” Shannon said.
If New Albany reaches Saturday’s title game, it could possibly have a rematch with Bloomington North. The Cougars rolled past the Bulldogs on Feb. 28 in Bloomington, 71-44. It was the regular-season finale for both teams.
CLASS 4A SEYMOUR REGIONAL
• DATE: Saturday.
• PLACE: Scott Gym, Seymour.
• PAIRINGS: Semifinals — New Albany (17-6) vs. Evansville Central (16-6), 11 a.m.; Bloomington North (14-8) vs. Franklin Central (13-10), 12:30 p.m.; championship — semifinal winners, 8 p.m.
• RADIO: WXVW-1450 AM, WNAS-88.1 FM.
NEW ALBANY PROJECTED STARTERS
No. Name Pos. Hgt. Grade PPG
3 Dustin Cochran G 5-7 12 7.7
4 Jeff Byrne F 6-1 11 6.2
11 Javen Reeves F 6-0 12 5.5
13 Leondre McBirth G 6-1 12 16.5
30 DeAnthony Warren F 6-1 11 7.3