By GREG MENGELT
New Albany knocked shot 55 percent from the field and knocked down eight of its 15 3-point attempts in a 58-49 Hoosier Hills Conference road triumph over Bedford North Lawrence at the BNL Fieldhouse on Friday.
The win is the Bulldogs’ third straight and their seventh in the last eight.
“We’ve been playing a lot better,” New Albany coach Jim Shannon said. “To go on the road and get a win at Bedford — it’s a tough place to play.”
“We’ve started taking off,” said sophomore Jeff Byrne, who was 6-of-7 from the 3-point line in the win. “We’ve started playing great.”
With the exception of a bad loss at Jasper, Shannon has liked the way his team has played in 2013. A 52-48 win over rival Providence on the first day of February seemed to help the Bulldogs turn a corner.
“This time of year, if you’re winning, that’s the big key,” Shannon assessed. “Also, we’re playing hard and the chemistry is good. Ever since we beat Providence. Our kids got more confidence from beating Providence, because it was the first elite team since we beat Bloomington South at the beginning of the year.”
“We’ve won seven of eight ... that’s going to give us some momentum heading into the tournament,” New Albany senior Garrett Arnold said.
In Friday’s win, Byrne led a balanced attack with 18 points. Arnold added 12, Leondre McBirth scored eight off of the Bulldog bench, Anthony Edwards finished with six points, six boards and three blocked shots and Jermaine Parrish contributed with five points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Josh Rogers was cold from the field — going 1-for-4 from the 3-point line — but he had five points, as well.
“When we can get Rogers, Arnold and Byrne all filling it up, we’re pretty potent offensively,” Shannon said. “And we have Jermaine’s doing a nice job of penetrating and Anthony is holding his own inside. We’re really playing a lot better right now. We’ve got six guys who can all get 8-18 [points]. That’s hard to guard.”
New Albany (11-6, 4-2 HHC) opened the contest on fire. After Bedford (8-11, 3-4) took leads of 2-0 and 6-5, the Bulldogs went on a 16-6 run over the remainder of the period by hitting nine of their 11 field goal attempts.
“We were taking it to the basket and being aggressive,” Arnold said.
Arnold scored eight of New Albany’s 21 points, including a steals and a bucket at the first quarter horn.
“He did a job,” Shannon said of Arnold. “He’s been playing great.”
“My shooting wasn’t really there, so I went to the basket a lot, got my points there,” Arnold explained.
It took New Albany more than four minutes to score in the second quarter. By the time the Bulldogs hit a field goal — a Parrish drive with 3:40 left in the half — the Stars had cut the New Albany advantage to 21-18. However, Byrne’s second 3 gave the Bulldogs a 26-19 cushion. Edwards then hit a spinning bank shot and McBirth hit a baseline floater with two seconds left to give New Albany a 30-19 halftime lead.
The third quarter was all Byrne. He hit two 3’s to open the second half. After an Arnold layup, he then hit two more from beyond the 3-point stripe to give New Albany a 44-21 lead.
“I started feeling it,” Byrne said. “My teammates were getting me the ball in good position to score.”
“Any time you have someone shooting like that, you have to get it to him,” Arnold said of Byrne.
The Stars went on a 7-2 run before Louis Donastorg beat the third quarter buzzer with an 8-footer on an assist from Chad Hudson and the Bulldogs led 49-28 with one period to play.
McBirth opened the fourth quarter with a field goal to make it 51-28. That was the Bulldogs’ last field goal. Bedford went on a 16-2 run to cut the gap to 53-44, but Rogers and Hudson each hit a pair of free throws and Arnold went 2 for 4 in the final 1:38 to put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs will try to make it four straight and eight of nine when they go to Indianapolis Arlington tonight. They also will host Jennings County in their final HHC contest on Tuesday.