New Albany coach Jim Shannon expected a tough matchup as his Bulldogs invaded Silver Creek’s gymasium to face the Dragons last night. That’s precisely what he and his No. 13 4A-ranked Bulldogs got.
After a hotly-contested matchup, two 3-point attempts that would have tied the game in regulation inside the final seconds by Silver Creek missed the mark and New Albany (9-2) emerged a 49-46 victor.
“Listen, that’s a really good ball team,” Shannon said of the Dragons. “I know they’ve lost a couple of close games, but I fully expected this to be a close game. We don’t have the kind of team that’s going to waltz in and beat people by 20 points, so I figured it’d be like this.”
There were six ties and five lead changes in a see-saw first quarter. Reserve guard Devon Winburn nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left in the first frame to give the Bulldogs a 17-14 lead after the first eight minutes.
Behind 6-foot-6 sophomore center Christian Reed and junior foward Gabe Bauer, the Dragons seized early control of the contest by opening the second quarter with a 7-0 run.
Reed hit two free throws and scored off an assist from Shae Durham inside the first minute of the second quarter, and a 3-pointer from Bauer off an assist from Alex Tinsley gave Silver Creek a 21-17 lead with 5:32 remaining in the first half.
A short jumper by Dustin Cochran off a pick from center Nick White trimmed the margin to two at 21-19, and ended the Silver Creek run. The margin at halftime was two at 26-24 Silver Creek.
After an efficient first quarter, New Albany went cold in the second, going 3 of 11 from the field and only scored seven points in trailing by two at intermission.
“We thought we were getting pretty sluggish towards the end of the first half, so we went with a quicker lineup,” Shannon said. “We went with speed, whether or not that’s the reason why we won, that’s what happened.”
The 6-4 Dragons clung to the lead throughout the third quarter, but a 3-point play from forward DeAnthony Warren tied up the contest at 31-all with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter.
Warren made another huge play for the Bulldogs at the third quarter buzzer when he grabbed the long rebound off a missed jumper by Isaac Hibbert and netted the putback to give New Albany a 39-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Reed, who tied Bauer with 17 points in leading the Bulldogs in the scoring column, notched six points during the fourth quarter. His two free throws gave the Dragons a 44-42 lead with 5:29 remaining. After Devon Winburn nailed a jumper from the free throw line on New Albany’s next possession, Jake Steele hit a pair of free throws with 4:04 left in the contest to give Silver Creek a 46-44 lead.
Steele’s free throws were the last points the Dragons put on the scoreboard. With Silver Creek only committing five team fouls in the second half to that point, New Albany stalled on offense, knowing the Dragons had a foul to give. A 3-pointer from the top of the key from Dustin Cochran with two minutes remaining gave the Bulldogs a 47-46 lead, and Silver Creek squandered its three remaining offensive possessions.
Their best chance to take the lead — and potentially capture the win — came after a New Albany turnover with less than a minute left. After surveying the Bulldog defense, Silver Creek coach Brandon Hoffman called a timeout with 46.5 seconds remaining.
On a drive to the basket, Bauer was whistled for a traveling violation following a jump-stop with 23.5 seconds remaining — a call Hoffman and the home crowd protested vehemently.
“I disagree with the call. [The referee] and I don’t see it the same way. That’s all I’ll say about that,” Hoffman said.
After New Albany got the ball back following the call, Cochran found Jalen Reeves with an outlet pass, which the 6-foot guard took in for a resounding two-handed slam with 21.5 seconds remaining in the contest.
Silver Creek shots by Alex Tinsley and Bauer fell short with time running down, and the Bulldogs escaped with the win.
Shannon credited Reed and Bauer for attacking the undersized Bulldogs inside, something Hoffman agreed with.
“I thought we executed our game plan really well,” Hoffman said. “It came down to a few plays at the end, some breaks here or there, and that’s it. I’m really proud of the way our kids played. I’m disappointed for them.”
He also credited the Bulldogs with making the plays down the stretch they need to win.
“I’ve seen them play seven times this season, and that’s what they do — they find a way,” Hoffman said.
Leondre McBirth led New Albany with 20 points.
On Tuesday night, Bulldogs host Evansville Harrison, while Silver Creek travels to Providence to take on the Pioneers.
NEW ALBANY 49, SILVER CREEK 46
New Albany 17 7 15 10—49
Silver Creek 14 12 12 8—46
Silver Creek (6-4): Tinsley 4, Howell 0, Steele 3, Bauer 17, Reed 17, Davidson 0, Garr 2, Durham 3.
New Albany (9-2): McBirth 20, White 0, Reeves 4, Cochran 8, Warren 8, Hibbard 0, Winburn 9, Hickman 0.
3-point field goals: Silver Creek 4 (Cochran 2, McBirth, Winburn); New Albany 4 (Bauer 3, Durham).
Rebounds: Silver Creek 27 (Reed 9); New Albany 19 (Warren 6).
Free throws: Silver Creek 13-18, New Albany 7-9.
Turnovers: Silver Creek 10, New Albany 7.