SOUTHPORT — It was sometime in the final minute before the chant began.

“O-ver-rated,” bellowed the Brownsburg student section on Saturday, aiming their barbs at the New Albany boys’ basketball team.

They were sending an absolute message that the state-title dream had ended for Indiana’s No. 1 team. New Albany was wrapping up a 51-41 loss to Brownsburg and suffering their first loss in over a calendar year.

If it seemed cruel, it was. It’s an inaccurate conclusion to a team that had scripted a story of perfection for 26 3/4 basketball games this season.

Were they unfortunate?

Yeah. There were moments in the second half when the Bulldogs were decimated by a bloodied nose to their star senior Braydon Hobbs and a woeful, painful shoulder injury to TeNale Roland.

Were they imperfect? Sure. The Bulldogs were blindsided by some uncharacteristic yips at the foul line at the most inopportune time.

New Albany was shoved and stifled by a more physical Brownsburg team to the point where it finally emptied the tank on New Albany’s unbeatable machine.

But were they overrated, as the sometimes too-cruel teenage fans of the opposition suggested? Hardly.

If anything, this collection of Bulldogs was underrated. Despite glitzy rankings and lopsided victories that say the contrary.

Twenty-six times the Bulldogs took the floor prior to tip-off Saturday at Southport Fieldhouse and 26 times they stood as victors when the final horn sounded.

They won convincingly; they won when it was close. They won, and won despite knowing every time they were the target — the team everyone was gunning for.

New Albany won as friends. In an age where the AAU scene sometimes looks like topic No. 1 on the agenda of prep players. While Hobbs grabbed his share of headlines and sophomore Donnie Hale started gaining the attention of high-ranking Division-I coaches, this team still stood together the way it did through elementary school, middle school and every season of high school before this one.

It could have been a season where five seniors could have felt compelled to call it their team — only they saw a sophomore as prodigious and talented as Hale was needed to achieve the ultimate dream.

New Albany proved the power of playing for the name on the front of the jersey and seized the challenge of always being thought of as the best. They played for a coach who loves them and has had them in his home for years — even before they became members of his program.

They played for their community that stood behind them, who traveled with them and who shed the same tears they did when it all ended.

No, the top-ranked team in Indiana since the turn of 2008 won’t be celebrating a state championship. That’s the unfortunate reality that comes with a tournament loss. So call that truth whatever you want.

Just don’t say overrated — it simply just isn’t the case.

Contact Mike Hutsell at mike.hutsell@newsandtribune.com

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