County teams fighting to rekindle season
Chase and R-S Central basketball may not be fighting for the top spot in the conference, but they certainly have reason to play hard Friday night s the Trojans (4-12, 1-10 SMAC) travel to Rutherfordton to face the Hilltoppers (10-9, 4-7 SMAC) tonight at 7:30 p.m.
R-S Central won the first meeting between the two teams back on Dec. 20, 92-67.
In the win, Central was led by Jay'len Hollis who had a career night scoring 31 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. The Hilltoppers had three others in double figures — Brian Hunt (19), Rashaun Whitsides (17), and Desmond Whitesides (15) — to pair with Hollis' effort. R-S Central pulled down an incredible 41 team rebounds to control the game. Chase head coach Joe Jessen hopes he can keep the Hilltoppers of the boards and avoid a repeat performance.
"The biggest thing for us is going to be rebounding the ball. Last time we played (Central) was able to get two or three shots per possession," Jessen said. "If we can limit them to one shot it would be huge. We need to keep (Jay'len) Hollis and (Rashaun)Whitesides off the glass. If you get two or three shots at the rim, chances are you're going to make one."
As impressive as the Hilltoppers were on that December night, they we're equally unimpressive in their last outing — a 68-48 loss to Crest in which they managed just 14 team rebounds.
"We were horrible the other night at Crest," Central head coach Greg Wright said. "If we can't rebound the basketball any better than that it's going to be hard for us to beat anybody."
Wright hopes to blow the game open early with his defense and transition offense.
"We need to speed them up and make them play faster than they want to play," Wright said. "Hopefully our defense can dictate their pace."
For Jessen and the Trojans, the recipe to avoid an uptempo game is simple: Keep the basketball.
"We need to take care of the ball. When we turn over the ball that's when they get off to the races," Jessen said. "If we can hold onto the ball we can control the other team's tempo.
"It's not so much about them running as it is us taking care of the ball and taking a decent shot. If we can't take care of the ball and take good shots it's going to be a long night."
The R-S Central offense is sputtering coring over 50 points just twice in its last eight games, but Friday could be a chance for them to rebound against a Chase team that's lost nine of its last 10 contests.
"Friday night is a must-win for us," Wright said. "We're still in a precarious situation as far as the state playoffs are concerned so every win is incredibly valuable no matter who it comes against.
"And any game you play you want to win because winning just feels better than losing. Any win can breed more confidence and more success."
That crucial win for Central could come down to its defense led by guards Desmond Whiesides and Hunt.
"I think Desmond does a lot for this team that goes unrecognized because his defensive intensity and pressure. Him and Brian Hunt both sacrifice some on the offensive end to put pressure on the other team and guard their best player," Wright said. "I want us all to play hard. If we play hard than we all feed off of it."
Jessen understands that his Trojans are on the outside looking in as far as the conference standing are concerned, but he also understands the season isn't quite over and there is still time to grow.
"We just need to come out and play well. I'm not concerned with the final score if we play well," Jessen said. "I know we have a tough schedule the rest of the season but I'm just concerned with how we play. If we take care of those little things I think we can surprise somebody."
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at R-S Central following the varsity girls who tip at 6 p.m.