Langford leads Seniors to all-star win over Juniors

NEW ALBANY — Romeo Langford was angry.

There was nothing particularly demonstrative about the stoic star from New Albany High School, no explosive outbursts of emotion or rage. But as his Indiana Senior All-Star squad struggled through the opening half of Wednesday’s exhibition against the Juniors, Langford’s teammates could sense it.

Mr. Basketball wouldn’t tolerate embarrassment.

Led by Langford’s double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds, the Seniors came from behind to secure a 111-101 victory in their lone tuneup leading into this weekend’s series against Kentucky.

“Today, I saw a different side of Romeo,” said Senior guard Damezi Anderson, a fellow IU signee. “I think he got mad. On the defensive end and then the offensive end, he pushed us to get the W today. Us working together, we all did the job.”

Indeed, the Seniors offered a better effort in the second half than they did the first. Lackadaisical defense — predictable and expected in most all-star settings, but not accepted in this one — and fleeting energy from the Seniors led to a disjointed and ugly opening half.

The Seniors trailed by as many as 11 points late in the first, allowing the Juniors to shoot 47.5 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.

Not long after Sam Skaggs hit a 3-pointer to give the Juniors a 52-41 lead with 2:32 left, Senior coach Jim Shannon corralled his players during a timeout and demanded a better effort.

“He was talking about energy,” Langford said. “He said that as well at halftime. Then, we came together as a team. … “Really, we just had to pick it up on the defensive end,” Langford said. “We didn’t play defense like we knew that we could. That’s what got us going in the second half.”

After trailing 56-49 at halftime, the Seniors got plenty of stops and plenty of buckets during their pivotal 18-1 scoring run early in the second period.

Langford, Anderson and Mekhi Lairy each played key roles, with Anderson opening the run with a 3-pointer from the wing. All told, Anderson scored five of his 16 points and dished two of his three assists during the run.

Lairy scored six straight points to give the Seniors their first lead since the 11:30 mark of the first half.

And in between, Langford was Langford.

“I could see it on his face that he was really locked in,” Anderson said. “So we both talked about it, we both were going to get stops, we’re going to get scores. We both worked together to get the job done and get the W.”

The Juniors were short-handed, playing without anchors Keion Brooks and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Both players had been participating in USA Basketball’s U18 Team tryouts in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Armaan Franklin led the Juniors with 20 points, while Brandon Newman added 18.

Rob Phinisee, the third IU signee playing in Wednesday’s contest, also enjoyed a strong second half. The point guard scored nine of his 11 points during his final 14 minutes of action, finishing with five assists.

Bloomington South’s Chance Coyle saw 12 minutes off the bench for the Seniors, scoring four points, grabbing two rebounds and finishing second to Langford (four) with three steals.

Next up: a showdown with Kentucky on Friday night at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

“I think we still got a little bit more work to do,” Langford said. “But we’re all good players so it won’t be too hard for us to gel together, because we’re all good basketball players with good basketball IQs.”