BLOOMINGTON — Behind some sizzling shooting Bloomington South built an insurmountable halftime lead on the way to ending its lengthy losing streak to New Albany.
The Class 4A No. 3 Panthers made 7 of 10 3-pointers in the first half en route to a 40-19 advantage and a 68-43 victory over the visiting, and short-handed, Bulldogs on Saturday night. The win ended South’s nine-game, eight-year losing streak to New Albany. The loss, meanwhile, was the Bulldogs’ largest since an 81-51 setback at Evansville Reitz on Jan. 2, 2015 (Romeo Langford’s freshman year).
“Sometimes you just get it handed to you, and we just got it handed to us,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “They were better at every position. They were better offensively, they were better defensively, they outrebounded us, they played harder. Every statistic you could imagine they were better tonight and that’s why the score was so lopsided. … They’re as good as anybody in the state, and it showed tonight.”
Junior guard Connor Hickman paced the Panthers (2-0) with a game-high 20 points while Indiana University-commit Anthony Leal added 18.
Sophomore guard Tucker Biven was the only player in double digits for the Bulldogs (0-1) with 18 points. His backcourt mate, and classmate, Kaden Stanton scored nine while Jordan Thomas added eight for New Albany, which played without its only two seniors, forwards Julien Hunter and Trey Hourigan. Hunter, the team’s top-returning scorer and rebounder, sat out due to a stress reaction in his foot. Meanwhile Hourigan, the team’s second-leading returning scorer and rebounder, served the first game of a two-game suspension because he “broke team rules,” according to Shannon.
The presence of one, or both, may not have mattered Saturday night.
South hit 4 of 5 3-pointers in the first quarter — including one with four seconds left by Leal — to lead 19-8 at the first stop.
“They came out and jumped on us quick,” Shannon said. “Of course we’re young, we didn’t have a senior on the floor, so it’s just kind of tough to withstand that. You can only use so many timeouts to try to stop the bleeding, and we never really got it under control.”
The Panthers went 3-for-5 from long range in the second quarter, when they outscored the Bulldogs 21-11 en route to a 21-point halftime lead.
South kept it rolling in the third quarter, outscoring New Albany 11-0 to start the second half before Biven hit a 3-point with 3 minutes, 7 seconds to play in the period.
“We look exhausted, but we’re not deep,” Shannon said. “We really needed to get a couple more kids some breaks, but we’re just thin right now with two seniors out. ... We had an eight-man rotation and now we have six. It’s hard to go from eight to six. It was tough.”
Noah Jager added 12 for the Panthers, who posted their first win over the Bulldogs since a 65-47 triumph on Nov. 26, 2011.
New Albany hosts Evansville Harrison (0-2), which lost 67-47 to Floyd Central on Saturday night, next Saturday night. Hunter and Hourigan won’t play in that game either, but Shannon is hopeful to have both back in the lineup when the Bulldogs play at Floyd on Dec. 13.
“[Hunter] goes back to the doctor Thursday, so we’re hoping he gets released,” Shannon said. “If he gets released he won’t play this weekend against Evansville Harrison, but the following weekend against Floyd and Zionsville he would be eligible to play — if we get him back Thursday. We’re hoping and praying we do.”