B.J. and Andy's excellent semi-state adventure
SEYMOUR — One could argue that the first four days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament were the best ever, as a No. 16 seed (UMBC, You Must Be Cinderella or University of Maryland-Baltimore County) beat No. 1 overall seed Virginia by 20 points. No last-second heroics just a beat down of epic proportions.
In the South Regional, the top four seeds all will be watching the Sweet 16 on TV, starting Thursday night. That regional has been renamed the Kentucky Invitational as the No. 5 Wildcats are favored to win two games and advance to the Final Four.
But UK only has to check the brackets to see how the role of favorite has played out so far.
No. 1 Xavier and No. 2 Cincinnati are both gone, losing double-digits leads in the second round. Fans of both schools will be bemoaning those losses for years to come.
It was a basketball fan’s dream weekend, if you love upsets and didn’t mind seeing your brackets shredded.
It’s one thing to be a part of March Madness on a TV at home, at a friend’s or at your favorite watering hole.
It’s another to be smack dab in the middle of things. It’s not often you get the chance to see a game-winner at the buzzer, but that’s what we did. More to come later.
Thanks to the generosity of a friend with connections, I ended up with a pair of tickets to the boys basketball semi-state at Seymour on Saturday.
That’s right, the hottest tickets in the state. The $8 tickets were being advertised on Craig’s List for $50.
A gentleman that sat next to me and my compadre, Times editor Andrew Krull, said he did not anticipate the demand for tickets and the game being sold out.
He had to deal with scalpers in the parking lot and said some entrepreneurs were asking $50 for tickets. He said he wouldn’t pay that so he ended up paying $10 for the general admission ducats.
The reason for all the hype was that the next Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford, not going out on a limb to make that prediction, and his No. 3 New Albany Bulldogs were facing undefeated and top-ranked Warren Central in the Class 4A Southern Semi-state.
But the first game was no slouch as No. 4 Morristown defeated No. 5 Barr-Reeve 77-70 in the Class A Semi-state contest.
You will never see a better “preliminary” game. The game was tied at 30-all at the half and Morristown led 51-50 after three quarters.
Senior guard Hayden Langkabel led the winners with a game-high 29 points. After sitting out much of the first half, why I am not sure, Langkabel was the man for the Yellow Jackets down the stretch.
Langkabel, who averages just over 25 points per game, might have had the most impressive play of the semi-state when he turned a steal into a dunk and then a three-point play to put Morristown ahead near the end the third quarter.
He continued to make shots and free throws as Morristown advanced to its first state finals in boys basketball.
Barr-Reeve only had two seniors among its top seven as 6-8 Keegan O’Neal, who was limited with foul trouble in the first half, is just a sophomore.
Austin Ainscough, who had 18 points as he made shots from all over Jackson County, is just a sophomore.
This was the first time that the Vikings have lost in the semi-state.
So after Morristown celebrated its championship and upcoming trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Class A title game, and administrators cleared the floor, it was time for one of the most anticipated semi-state meetings in recent history.
But it wasn’t as easy as that, at least for those sitting in the Warren Central section.
You guessed it, that included Andy and I.
Our seats for the first game were good, two rows up. The only problem was the guy in front of me had one of those stadium seats (but it looked like it came from 1970), which he had pushed back to the point where I had to do the splits with my legs just to sit.
But that was nothing compared to game two.
As the game rapidly approached, you could tell that the crowd had gotten larger, and some of the seat-less decided to stand on the rail in front of us. I witnessed two verbal altercations where a woman with a seat complained to those standing in front of her, to no avail.
Another problem was the Warren Central student section did not sit down for the first half. Even though they were in the lower level, us poor souls in the first couple of rows of the upper section were blocked out.
Everybody was standing, trying to get a glimpse of the Warren Central end of the court. Andy wanted to stand on his seat on the bleachers, but knew the old lady behind him would have been totally without a view.
I was glad that we could see Langford in the first half. He scored 15 points as New Albany led 30-25 at intermission.
The only good thing about the situation was the guy with the stadium seat had to stand, giving me some leg room.
Andy was determined that we could find another viewpoint, even if we would have to stand for the second half.
After some miscalculations, and a stop at a conveniently located and almost deserted men’s room, we ended up in the Barr-Reeve section.
Normally, the losing team would have cleared out of the gym, but everyone wanted to stay and see the battle between two Goliaths..
There was a very nice lady, who helped us find two decent seats for the second half. But wouldn’t you know it, there was another elderly gentleman sitting in front of me with a stadium seat in my knees.
But he leaned forward instead of backwards as thankfully we settled into our new location with another half of basketball in front of us, literally.
New Albany, who only trailed briefly at 2-0,, appeared like they had too much for a smaller and maybe more athletic Warren Central squad.
The Bulldogs led 43-37 after three quarters and was still ahead 60-54 after a hoop by Trey Hourigan with just over two minutes remaining.
New Albany, who made 14 of 24 free throws, missed two in the final 84 seconds — one by Langford and another by Derrick Stevenson.
Warren Central hero David Bell made a layup with 38 seconds remaining, tying the game at 62-all.
New Albany called time out with 26 seconds left and got the ball in the hands of Langford.
Warren Central double-teamed Langford, who was smothered. He stepped through the Warrior defenders, but his pass sailed past everyone and out of bounds with 4.6 seconds remaining.
The Warriors had to come the length of the floor in less than five seconds, and that’s just what they did.
Bell got the ball and did his best Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney imitation. Bell did not have time to shoot a layup like Ainge did for BYU against Notre Dame and Edney did for UCLA to beat Missouri, so he banked in a runner from about 12 feet as time expired, giving Warren Central a 64-62 win and a Class 4A Semi-state championship.
Those same fans that were standing in front of us in the first half poured onto the court to find Bell and his teammates.
Bell finished with 17 points and Dean Tate made six triples to finish with 21 points.
Langford, who led the Bulldogs to a state championship as a sophomore in 2016, finished with 35 points. They won 100 games and lost 10 in his career at New Albany.
He ended his career with 3,002 points, fourth on the all-time list behind Damon Bailey (3,134), Marion Pierce (3,019) and Deshaun Thomas (3,018) and ahead of Union (Dugger) guard Brody Boyd, who is fifth with 2,632.
Just before the final play, something happened that went totally unnoticed. New Albany only had five team fouls, meaning they had one to give before putting Warren Central on the line shooting one-and-one.
Especially having to bring the ball the entire length of the floor, seems like New Albany coach Jim Shannon might have instructed his kids to take a foul.
This would have taken a couple of seconds off the clock and forced Warren Central to in-bounds the ball again near midcourt. Admittedly, Bell was moving pretty fast and fouling in that situation is not a perfect science.
Andy and I rarely go to games as fans. Most of the time, both of us go in the capacity as a writer and/or photographer.
But neither of us was asking for our money back.
NOTES: A couple of thoughts for the road.
The Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium has been around since 1970. It was renamed in 1998 for Scott, who had a 233-99 record at Seymour with 11 sectionals during his stay from 1961 to 1974.
According to johnharrell.net, the gym seats 8,110. But I wonder if that number was from the old days when the general population was not as wide and most could fit in the designed and assigned seats.
As a friend of mine said, “I can probably get one cheek in those seats.”
My point is that if they sold or gave away 8,000-plus tickets, it only makes sense that there was not room enough for everybody to have a place to sit.
The funny thing is I never saw the local police doing anything in regards to crowd control inside and I did not see the fire marshal.
No matter the flaws, a hoop fan could not have asked for much more.