The New Albany boys’ basketball team had its opportunities against Evansville Harrison and the much-ballyhooed triumvirate of brothers Ernie, Everett and Stanley Duncan on Tuesday night at The Doghouse, but fell 57-52 in a game that was rescheduled from December.
Senior guard Ernie Duncan, a senior and University of Vermont signee, led all scorers with 22 points, and sank 8-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter as the Warriors (9-6), a preseason top-5 Class 4A school held off the hosts.
“They executed at the end — we didn’t,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “We fouled him and put him on the line, and he’s not going to miss those free throws. That’s like giving [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar a dunk.”
Throughout the tightly-contest ballgame, neither team led by no more than five points, but the Bulldogs (9-3) held leads at the end of each quarter — 15-14 at the end of one, 28-24 at halftime and 38-37 at the end of the third quarter.
After a short jumper from guard Dre McBirth, the Bulldogs led 42-39 with 6:12 remaining. But four consecutive free throws from Ernie Duncan gave Harrison a 43-42 lead with just under five minutes left.
New Albany’s DeAnthony Warren knotted up the contest by making 1 of 2 free throws with 3:41 remaining. But the Warriors seized control by scoring three baskets in a row — two from Ernie Duncan and another short jumper from Stanley Duncan, who chipped in with 16 points for the Warriors. Harrison led 49-43 with 1:44 remaining in the game following the 6-0 run.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t go away, and after a 3-pointer from reserve guard Devon Winburn, New Albany narrowed the gap to three at 55-52 with 18.6 seconds left.
On Evansville Harrison’s next possession, Warriors’ guard Jackson Strong was fouled but missed both free throws. Off the second miss, Everett Duncan grabbed the offensive rebound and whipped a pass to Harrison forward Jared Chestnut, who laid the ball in off the glass to seal the five-point win for the Warriors.
Shannon said another factor in the loss was New Albany’s inability to get McBirth, who came into the contest averaging almost 20 points per game, going.
McBirth scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, but wasn’t much of a factor throughout. Warren led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
“They’re just a good team,” Shannon said. “We took it down to the wire, but they came in and took advantage of our weaknesses. And then on offense, we couldn’t get Dre going. He hit one or two late, but he couldn’t do it early.”
The Bulldogs’ next game will be Friday night with another matchup with a team from the Pocket City, as Evansville North invades The Doghouse.
EVANSVILLE HARRISON 57, NEW ALBANY 52
Evansville Harrison 14 11 12 20—57
New Albany 15 13 10 14—52
New Albany (9-3): Leondre McBirth 13, Nick White 0, Javen Reeves 2, Dustin Cochran 5, DeAnthony Warren 15, Isaac Hibbard 3, Davon Winburn 6, Jeff Byrne 8.
Evansvile Harrison (9-6): Ernie Duncan 22, Jackson Strong 3, O’Bryan Brown 4, Stanley Duncan 16, Everett Duncan 4, Jared Chestnut 8, Trey Schafer 0, Daytone Jennings 0.
3-point field goals: New Albany 9 (Byrne 2, Cochran, McBirth 3, Warren, Hibbard, Winburn 2); Evansville Harrison 4 (Ernie Duncan, Strong, Stanley Duncan 2).
Rebounds: New Albany 19 (Warren 6); Evansville Harrison 24 (Ernie Duncan, Everett Duncan 6).
Free throws: New Albany 4-5, Evansville Harrison 15-19.
Turnovers: New Albany 11, Evansville Harrison 10.