Cavaliers, Hilltoppers ready for semifinals
Two Rutherford County teams will represent tonight in the SMAC semifinals at Shelby High School.
R-S Central, by virtue of a 79-56 win over Chase Monday, will face the top-seeded Shelby Golden Lions for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
In their previous two meetings, Shelby has downed the Hilltoppers by 31 and 42 points.
“We know what they got and they’ve really handed it to us the two times we’ve played them this year,” Central head coach Greg Wright said. “We’ve come out flat and apprehensive for whatever the reason be. They’re a really good team, we know that, everyone knows that. We have to come ready to compete against them.”
In their second meeting, the Golden Lions scored an unheard of 124 points.
“We’ve been non-existent defensively against them. We have to understand that we’ll have to move and play with more energy and passion than we have all year,” Wright said. “Each quarter needs to be two-minute segments. We need to win as many of those segments as we can so we aren’t down 35-40 points by halftime.”
Despite the tough task at hand, Wright has every intention of earning a spot in the championship game.
“We’re going down there to win the basketball game. Whoever wins plays for the championship and that’s what we need to understand,” Wright said. “We aren’t going for a good showing and we surely aren’t going to get our tails whipped. We’re going down there with every intention of winning this basketball game. Thats what I believe and that’s what I’m going to have my team believing.”
Before the Hilltoppers and Shelby tip off, East Rutherford and Freedom will tussle for the first spot in Friday’s championship.
The Cavs are 2-0 against the Patriots on the year with a 15-point and a 19-point victory earlier in the season.
Despite their success, East head coach Brad Levine isn’t taking the Patriots lightly.
“I don’t feel like they’ve played their best,” Levine said. “Sooner or later a good team, kind of like a monster, will raise it’s head and play well and we’ll have to play.”
The Patriots are known for their stellar guard-play and 3-point shooting, but the Cavs have a noticeable size advantage.
“I think my kids are ready for the challenge and we know what we have to do,” Levine said.
Even more difficult when facing a team that you’ve beaten twice, is not looking forward to the next matchup where the Cavs would play the winner of R-S Central/Shelby. Especially knowing that Shelby is the only team to beat the Cavs twice this season.
“We have to take one game at a time,” Levine said. We’ll deal with Shelby when we get there. Right now we’re worried about Freedom.”
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Shelby High.