|Wildcats look to take control of first half|
|Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
January 23, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs boys basketball coach Steve Glover said before district play began that he thought the first half would determine the fate of most of the teams. He could very well be right.
The Wildcats (8-14, 1-1 District 11-4A) host early co-leader Sherman (10-12, 2-0) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a game that could determine playoff seeding down the road. SSHS is coming off a 45-40 win at Denison Tuesday and plays its next two at home.
The Wildcat Gymnasium can't be labeled the "friendly confines," particularly in the last two games played, where SSHS lost two buzzer beaters. Glover and the team care more about starting a winning streak than where they play.
"Most teams are expected to win at home," Glover said. "We've got two in a row here, and I think winning at a tough place like Denison has given our kids confidence and let them realize they can compete with anybody in this district when they're playing at their best."
SSHS is led by Jeremy White (14 points, eight rebounds per game in district), Tyler Thomas (12.5 ppg, six rpg, 8-for-14 from the floor) and Rolaundo Wright (a team-high 9.5 rpg to go along with seven ppg). Tremayne Jones is the team's top bench threat with seven points per game.
If the Wildcats are to beat SHS, they must stop perhaps the most talented team in the district. Point guard Camrin McKee and forward Spencer Oestreich, both sophomores, played varsity last season and started their fair share of games.
McKee is a slashing point guard who utilizes his quickness and loves to find the open man. Oestreich, the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-4, can score inside but usually spends his time on the wing and is a 3-point threat.
Junior guard Trey Carter, a three-sport star for the Bearcats, occupies the other guard spot. Senior Zach Seifert, also a quarterback on the football team, along with junior Geoffrey Cooper provide plenty of bulk in the post. Seifert makes a living out of crashing the boards and scoring off offensive rebounds.
"We can't focus on just one area in defending them," Glover said. "We've been playing good defense the last few games, and we've got to have another good defensive effort tonight."
A trend that is sensible and seems to be developing early on is the team that makes its free throws wins the game. It cost SSHS in its opener against Greenville Friday, while the Lions beat McKinney North Tuesday by making their free throws down the stretch.
It would be no surprise if tonight's game came down to which team performs better at the foul line. The Wildcats are improving but still must better their 61 percent (11-of-18) performance of Tuesday night. Glover said the goal is to make more free throws than SHS attempts.
It's way too early to call this a swing game, but the winner has a distinct advantage. A victory for the Bearcats continues their unbeaten string and assures them no worse than a tie for first. A win for SSHS ties them with the Bearcats, and Glover echoed his sentiments on the importance of the first five games.
"The first five are big for us, because we play three of our last five on the road," Glover said. "I don't know how big tonight's game is as far as the standings are concerned, but I feel the next two will bring about a little separation at the top two spots and let each team know what they must do in the second half."
Every game is big for the Wildcats at this point, as they are looking to better their district victory total in 2003, win their first home game of the season and continue their goal of taking each game one at a time.
"I think there's going to be a dogfight for first and second as well as one for third," Glover said. "We want to be in the fight for the top spot, and it's going to be up to us. We don't want to depend on what others do, and it's all in our hands tonight. It should be an exciting game, and I think our kids are playing with a sense of urgency and realize how good they can be."
NOTES: Greenville looks to remain undefeated, as the Lions travel to Paris, while Denison looks to secure its first district win at McKinney North. Ryan Henry will not play tonight, as he's taking a football recruiting trip to Belhaven (Miss.) College.