NEW CASTLE — U-g-l-y, hoops fans had to cover their eyes, that game was ugly. The second semifinal of the 2016 City Securities Hall of Fame Classic featured two offenses that average over 50 points per game, but you sure would not be able to tell by the performance those two put on Friday afternoon. The sloppy game saw No. 4 New Albany and upset-minded Warsaw shoot a combined 31.6-percent from the field as the Bulldogs scraped by with a 43-33 win.
New Albany, the defending 4-A state champions, came in boasting one of the country’s most prolific players, Romeo Langford. The 6’6″ junior is the top ranked shooting guard, second overall recruit in the class of 2018, according to ESPN and 247Sports.com, and entered Friday’s tournament averaging 29.3 points per game.
The two teams felt each other out in a very slow first quarter. That opening frame ended with the Bulldogs clinging to a 12-10 lead following a buzzer-beating two from Warsaw’s Jeremy David. New Albany separated itself a little in the second, mainly off of second chance points. Despite being the more athletic and accomplished team, the Bulldogs found themselves up just 23-17 at the break. Langford had 11 points at that point, but disappeared in the second half.
The junior scored just three points total in the final 16 minutes and would finish tied with teammate Sean East as scoring leader as both had 14 points. The Bulldogs won the third 12-6, behind nine points from East, to take a 35-23 lead into the final quarter.
“Langford ended up only shooting five threes, but East was the guy that was big,” Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle explained. “He came into the game 2-15, in the three games we had scouted, today he was 3-8 and a couple of them were just way, way back there.”
East was 3-28 from three on the season before Friday’s game against the Tigers. He hit two threes in the third quarter to help boost the Bulldogs.
Warsaw woke up in the fourth, going on a 6-1 run in the first three minutes cut New Albany’s lead to 36-29. The Bulldogs hit the bonus with 5:29 to spare, but had a limited effort from Langford after he picked up his fourth foul with 6:01 left in the game. New Albany would go 8-12 from the charity strip in the final frame and 11-18 for the game. Warsaw did not allow any field goals from the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers won the rebound battle 34-24, held the Bulldogs, a team scoring 63 points per game, to just 43 points, but still could not find a way to steal the win. Despite the strong defensive showing, Warsaw could never hit the big shot when they needed it most.
“We’re just not good enough offensively right now to beat a team that athletic,” stated Ogle. “They don’t turn the ball over very much, they’re just a solid basketball team. Both teams just kind of struggled today offensively. I don’t know what else to say.”
Kyle Mangas did his part for the Tigers, leading the team with 13 points. Asher Blum had a breakout game, of sorts, as he tallied nine points and was a noticeable boost for the Tigers off the bench. Ross Johnson scored five for Warsaw while David finished with four and led the team with eight rebounds.
Following the game Ogle made a quick pit stop by the New Albany locker room to give the team a big compliment, “My message to New Albany was, as I’ve watched them play this year, as reigning state champs, I’ve watched them play four games and I’m just impressed with the humility of their group. I’m impressed with how they play basketball, they’re unselfish. I just appreciate how they play.
“They’re led by Langford’s humility. He’s a very humble person. That’s impressive, because you’re the reigning state champ, you’ve got Romeo Langford on your team. They have an opportunity to not be as sound and sportsmanlike as they are. They’re well coached and just really appreciate how they play basketball.”
Warsaw (6-3) will play No. 8 Lawrence North (6-2) at 6 p.m. in the consolation game. Wildcat head coach Jack Keefer will be looking for his 750th career win. Keefer is currently fourth on the all-time wins list, and second on the active wins list behind Tippecanoe Valley’s Bill Patrick (758).
New Albany (6-2) will play No. 3 Logansport (8-0) in the title game starting at approximately 7:45 p.m. Logansport topped Lawrence North 53-51 in the first semifinal of the day. The Berries were led by Matt Jennings’ 29 points. Jennings is a Grace College commit.