The Northview Knights will pack up their bags tomorrow for their trip south to the Seymour Regional on Saturday afternoon. There, the 20-4 Knights will square off with the 16-6 New Albany Bulldogs, a team as close to the Kentucky border as you can get without being morally required to wear Wildcat Blue or Cardinal Red.
The Bulldogs come into Saturday's 12:05 approx. tipoff after defeating Floyd Central for their third consecutive sectional title, 73-65.
New Albany is paced by standout senior guard/forward Ryan Wheeler who is listed as the state's eighth leading scorer at over 25 points a game. He also contributes about seven rebounds per contest for the Bulldogs.
But while those stats are impressive for the 6'2 Wheeler, he's complemented by 6'2 Derick Dobbs who has proven deadly from beyond the 3-point arc this season for a team that has great range.
In the sectional championship game, the Bulldogs knocked down six from long range as Wheeler hit a pair, senior Christopher Murphy hit a pair and both Hobbs and Craig Bryant hit one.
Hobbs had 18 points in the title game to go with Wheeler's 25 while Bryant scored 10 and Raytheon Ray combined with Murphy for 20 points off the bench.
While New Albany has a great deal of depth, the key to the Bulldogs is obviously Wheeler who recovered from a deep thigh bruise late in the season to lead New Albany to the sectional victory.
However, in the game that he missed and the following contest in which he played sparingly, the Bulldogs were completely lost on offense and were blown out 62-39 to Evansville Bosse and 63-44 by Evansville North.
New Albany has lot back-to-back games three times this year, including two early losses in December and a stretch where they lost four-of-five in February.
New Albany matches up size-wise, about even with the Knights with Mareece Harris measuring up as the tallest starter for the Bulldogs at 6'4. Bryant checks in at 6'3 along with the 6'2 Wheeler, 6'2 Dobbs.
The Bulldogs have experience in the postseason after advancing to the regional title game last year by defeating Terre Haute North 68-51 in the first round sectional game. New Albany then lost in the regional final 61-40 to Evansville Harrison.
The year before, in the 2001-02 season, New Albany lost just twice all season, but the second defeat was in the first round of regional competition, 64-60 to Castle.
The Bulldogs also have experience in close games, winning six of seven games this year in games decided by three or fewer points.
Northview will need to limit New Albany's perimeter game and cannot let Wheeler lead a one-man show past the Knights. Though he has the ability to score inside and out as well as crash the boards, the Knights know that New Albany relies on him a great deal in their offense. Hamper Wheeler's role in the offense and the Knights could roll.
Don't be surprised to see the Bulldogs try and drive the lane with Wheeler and dish outside to their sharpshooters on the perimeter. The Knights have shown the ability to disrupt opponents passing lanes with their long-armed defenders and Saturday will need to be no exception.