CLOSE LOSSMadison junior Alex Weaver (above, 20) and coach Pat King react after a call late in Friday’s game against New Albany. The Bulldogs’ Davon Winburn (right, 5) out-muscles Madison’s Tyler Manaugh (left) and Carson Wattenbarger for a rebound. New Albany made all of the plays it needed down the stretch to pull out the 54-51 win. These and other photos can be viewed at photos by David Campbell)

Madison junior Alex Weaver (above, 20) and coach Pat King react after a call late in Friday’s game against New Albany. The Bulldogs’ Davon Winburn (right, 5) out-muscles Madison’s Tyler Manaugh (left) and Carson Wattenbarger for a rebound. New Albany made all of the plays it needed down the stretch to pull out the 54-51 win. These and other photos can be viewed at photos by David Campbell)
Madison's hopes for a second buzzer-beating win in four days went by the wayside as New Albany survived 54-51 in a matchup of ranked conference opponents Friday at Salm Gymnasium.

Madison, ranked 13th in Class 3A, held a 48-45 lead with 2:49 left but could not make the plays it needed in order to win down the stretch.

The Cubs were just 5-of-12 from the free-throw line and missed two critical shots in the final 45 seconds that would have either tied the game or put them ahead.

Meanwhile New Albany, the 16th-ranked team in Class 4A, went 5-for-7 at the line in the final 41 seconds and forced two turnovers to remain undefeated in Hoosier Hills Conference play.

"The people that came tonight got their money's worth. What a game," Madison coach Pat King said. "It's just too bad that we couldn't finish. New Albany proved why it's undefeated in the conference because they finished the game and we didn't. They forced us to miss some shots and we missed some free throws down the stretch."

Madison (7-2, 2-2 HHC) came back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Jennings County on the road on Tuesday to give itself a shot to win the HHC. Standing in its way was a New Albany team that had not been beaten in league play.

The Cubs led 19-18 after a high-octane first quarter that saw the two teams combine to hit seven 3-pointers. The up-and-down style benefited Madison, which thrived in the full-court atmosphere.

In most years it is New Albany that wants to play the up-tempo style, but on Friday, it was the Bulldogs that finally slowed the game down. As a result, the two teams combined to score just 19 points in the second eight minutes of action.

"New Albany is a very good half-court team and they did what they should have done which is slow it down," King said. "We're a very good full-court team and you'll notice that they didn't press us at all tonight. I think that slow pace favored them."

Nick Macon, who has been hampered with illness and back issues the past two weeks, had his best game in almost a month. The 5-foot-11 junior guard scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and his 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the second quarter capped an 8-0 run and gave Madison its biggest lead of the night at 27-21.

But as it would do all night, New Albany (7-2, 5-0 HHC) chipped back into the game. Leondre McBirth hit a tough jumper and after Madison's Carson Wattenbarger knocked down a free throw, Nick White followed with a two and Davon Winburn hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Bulldogs to tie the game at 28-28.

Another 9-0 run in the third quarter gave Madison a 40-35 lead, but New Albany got four of those points back by the end of the frame on baskets by Javen Reeves and Winburn and trailed by only one.

The teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter. Macon staked Madison to a three-point lead with a tough drive to the basket with 2:49 to play.

But the rest of the game belonged to New Albany. McBirth pulled New Albany to within one when he rebounded his own miss and put it in. Landon Perry then missed two free throws with 2:09 left that would have pushed the margin back to three.

The missed free throws came back to haunt Madison almost immediately. Winburn put the Bulldogs ahead at 49-48 with a drive to the basket with 1:41 to play.

Madison had four chances down the stretch to either tie or go ahead and failed on each one. The first came on a missed Perry shot but the Cubs got a reprieve when Winburn missed his bonus free-throw shot with 41.9 seconds left.

On the next possession, Wattenbarger attempted to power the ball to the rim against a New Albany double team, but he was stymied. Reeves hit two free throws on the other end to push the Bulldogs ahead 51-48 with 27 seconds left.

Another Wattenbarger miss and a Winburn free throw gave New Albany a 52-48 lead with 13 seconds left but Madison still had life when Macon drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with six seconds left to make it a 52-51 game.

Winburn hit both his free throws to push New Albany ahead by three but with 1.6 seconds left, Madison didn't have much time. Macon tried to get off an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired, but stepped on the sideline to end the game.

While Madison failed to pull out the win, King was pleased with the way his team played, although he would have liked his team to have played better in the final two minutes.

"I'm so proud of the kids. I think the kids played very, very well," King said. "The one thing we talked about in the lockerroom (after the game) was if we can play a little smarter down the stretch. I thought we made some mental mistakes down the stretch, but that's just the rub of the game. Sometimes that's how it happens unfortunately. But we'll learn from this and it will make us stronger come tourney time."

Perry finished with 11 points, 10 under his season average, while being the focal point of the New Albany defense. Wattenbarger and Manaugh had eight points each.

"I thought Nick (Macon) played a really good game and really stepped up," King said. "We knew that Landon would be in their crosshairs and they weren't going to let him shoot. Nick answered the call very well."

McBirth led New Albany with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Reeves and Winburn scored 10 each. The Bulldogs shot only 37.7 percent (20-for-53) from the floor but outrebounded Madison 30-26, had 14 offensive rebounds and went 8-for-10 from the line.

"I'm disappointed in the rebounding and it wasn't just one person," King said. "They were quicker to the ball than we were. I thought our people struggled a bit to get the rebounds and it was all five of them."

With two losses in conference play, Madison's chances at a HHC title have dwindled. But King is not ready to write off league games yet and is already looking ahead to next Saturday's matchup at home with Floyd Central on homecoming.

But before the Cubs take on Floyd Central they will travel to Greensburg to face the No. 1 team in Class 3A and the defending state champions. Madison led Greensburg late in the third quarter in the sectional championship game last season before the Pirates rallied to win 69-52.

"The challenge we have is that we'll have to play the No. 1 team in the state on Friday and turn around have a conference game on Saturday," King said. "It will be mentally and physically a tough thing to do."


Friday's Boys Game

at Madison

4A No. 16 NEW ALBANY 54,

3A No. 13 MADISON 51

NEW ALBANY 18 10 11 15 - 54

MADISON 19 9 12 11 - 51

NEW ALBANY (7-2, 5-0 HHC) - (g)McBirth 13, (f)Reeves 10, Winburn 10, (g)Cochran 8, (c)White 5, (f)Byrne 5, Warren 3, Hickman 0.

MADISON (7-2, 2-2 HHC) - (g)Macon 21, (g)Perry 11, (c)Manaugh 8, (f)Wattenbarger 8, Weaver 2, (f)Tucker 1, Huffman 0, Sauley 0.

3-Point Goals - New Albany 6 (Cochran 2, McBirth 1, Byrne 1, Warren 1, Winburn 1), Madison 6 (Perry 3, Macon 3). Rebounds - New Albany 30 (McBirth 10), Madison 26 (Wattenbarger 8). Turnovers - New Albany 10, Madison 11. Total Fouls - New Albany 11, Madison 14. Free Throws - New Albany 8-10, Madison 5-12. Fouled Out - None. Next Game - New Albany hosts Scottsburg tonight. Madison travels to Greensburg Friday.