Story and Photos by Phillip Steinmetz
Jeffersonville and New Albany play each other in basketball at Johnson Arena on Friday night. Is that a big enough statement for you to read further? It should be.
The two prominent programs meet for what looks to be another heated battle. New Albany “supposedly” leads the all-time series 81-76 after winning the last four matchups with some pretty lopsided victories (aka the Romeo Langford effect) but we’ll talk about that later.
The Red Devils sit currently at 7-3, coming off a third place finish in the Teddy Throckmorton Tournament, while New Albany is 8-2 after playing an excruciating schedule to begin with. Last time the Bulldogs played at JHS they won by 42 points (wow the Red Devils were bad then.) Don’t expect that type of outcome to play out this year.
Okay, I said I’d talk about “him” later and later is now (what a wait you had to experience).
ROMEO LANGFORD IS THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYER OUT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA SINCE GREG ODEN.
This is the fourth time Langford will be facing the Red Devils — in the last matchup he had 24 points to go with 13 rebounds in the sectional championship. Oh yeah, he’s only a junior now and shot up all the way to second in ESPN’s Top 60 recruiting rankings.
How do you stop a player of his caliber from tearing your team to shreds? It’s simple, you don’t. There’s no way to hold him from scoring 25 or more points against a defense of Jeffersonville’s caliber. That means there are only a few ways the Red Devils can make this a respectable game throughout.
Not a single player other than Langford can score in double digits for New Albany.
That’s easier said than done considering the Bulldogs have two other outstanding scorers in Isaac Hibbard and Sean East who each provide matchup problems. Hibbard is the senior guard that can shoot lights out but can be a liability on defense at times but seems to never be rattled by the big moment. East is the starting point guard who can hit open three’s and might be the fastest player on the court. Jeffersonville will have their hands full with Langford but can’t forget to get a hand in the face of both of these players if they want success.
Bailey Falkenstein will be the second best player on the court.
The junior guard leads the Red Devils in scoring and is a prime candidate to score 20 or more points against the rival Bulldogs. Last season, in their regular season matchup he did score 25 points as a sophomore despite the ugly loss. Falkenstein is one of the strongest guards you’ll see step on the court and his play shows it. He’s at his best driving to the basket absorbing contact as he finishes the double clutch layup. Falkenstein is also known to drain a couple three’s a game to compliment. He will be leaned on even more Friday night to try to make Langford’s scoring total not look completely insane by scoring a ton himself.
Jeffersonville is at their best when they are hitting shots.
This could be said for every team but the Red Devils truly live and die by the three. In their win against CAI they went 9 for 13 from behind the arc and in their loss to Cathedral the same day, they only scored three points in the second quarter. Gerrin Moore, Joe LaGrange and Michael Minton will be looked on heavily to drain their open shots as the Bulldogs will dare Jeff to beat them from the outside. If a few shots fall early, we could have ourselves a shootout but if NA extends their defense and makes the Red Devils uncomfortable at the very beginning, the game could be over by halftime.
Freshman will need to step up for Red Devils.
Two freshman play big minutes for JHS as 5’8 Jacob Jones is the pestering point guard and 6’6 Tre’ Coleman comes off the bench as the defensive specialist. Jones will be tasked of keeping up with East but he’s frustrated guards all season and will need to carry more of a load offensively. Coleman might earn his first career start against NA because of how great a defender he really is. It’s almost impossible to get a shot off against him which he proved in the last couple of games blocking shots left and right. He’ll also be used to pound the glass which is a weakness for the Bulldogs. Both of these players will be looked upon to play well above their years for Jeff to have a chance Friday.
So, what will happen?
It’s a rivalry game, anything can happen. The Red Devils need to be hitting their shots early and often while forcing New Albany to shoot extremely deep shots for most of the game. Last game, NA went 1-22 from three against the 3rd ranked Logansport (Loganberries really?) and still dominated the game. Obviously they can beat you in other ways including their defense but I believe Jeff is one of the better offensive teams in the state.
Second year head coach Joe Luce will have his young Devils ready to play against the reigning state champions. This could become a game just like last year if Langford gets in foul trouble but I don’t think it’ll be much of one come the fourth quarter. I’m a Red Devil for life but I think the scoring and pure intimidation of this team will be the downfall for Jeff. Can they make this a close game? Of course they can with their scoring ability but Romeo Langford is still one of the best players in the COUNTRY and is almost impossible to beat without someone of his caliber playing for you.
PREDICTION: Jeffersonville 65 New Albany 78