|Which Wildcat will win important 11-4A battle?|
|Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
January 27, 2004 -- The Wildcats will win tonight's District 11-4A battle, but the question that remains is whether it will be Paris or Sulphur Springs.
It what could very well be considered the most important week of the district season to date, tonight's game is significant for both teams for drastically different reasons.
Paris (11-11, 1-2) needs to even its district record if it wants any realistic chance of competing for a playoff berth. Sulphur Springs (9-14, 2-1) on the other hand, needs to defend its home court once again and bring some momentum into a six-game stretch that has them playing four on the road. The game is expected to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the SSHS gymnasium.
SSHS swept last week's action with two wins that got the Wildcats back on the right track. They learned how to persevere through adversity Friday night against Sherman in their 89-87 double-overtime victory over the Bearcats and look to continue their winning ways.
"We put ourselves in position to make these games meaningful with the way we played last week," SSHS head coach Steve Glover said. "We figure that either the district race will come close together, or one team on each end will separate itself from the rest of the group."
SSHS is led by Jeremy White (21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds per game in district), Tyler Thomas (12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Rolaundo Wright (team-high 13.3 rpg to along with 8.3 ppg). Perhaps the key to Friday night's win was the performance of guard Ryan Allison, who had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and is averaging 8.3 points and five rebounds per game in district play.
The key to tonight's game is stopping the Paris backcourt and not allowing the ball inside, which is undoubtedly where the team's strength lies.
Senior forward Cornelius Washington is the leader on the floor, while 6-foot-7 senior post Newman Carrell provides size SSHS hasn't seen since pre-district.
"Washington is the key for them, because when he plays good, they usually succeed, but when he doesn't, they tend to struggle," Glover said. "We need to keep him under control, as he is a good player and is capable of making a lot of things happen.
"Paris is a physical team inside and will look to run the fast break when the opportunities arise. They play good man-to-man defense and are going to put a lot of pressure on us."
SSHS has done a better job of not succumbing to the pressure and taking care of the basketball, committing only 12 turnovers Friday against the Bearcats. Glover looks for the same poise on the court tonight but can't preach enough about the importance of free throws. SSHS improved in the category once again Friday, jumping to 68 percent (27-of-40), but the goal remains at 70 percent. One area of concern is shooting, as SSHS was 37 percent (29-of-78) from the floor and missed some easy layups.
SSHS has already surpassed its district victory total from the 2002-03 season and now has its sights set on a bigger prize of making the playoffs. Glover said he feels the advantage lies with his team tonight, something that hasn't necessarily been the case in games past. At the same time, he knows it's never time to take things for granted.
"Both teams are coming into this game tonight with a sense of urgency," Glover said. "We must continue to do a solid job of defending their guards, because if they can't get the ball in the post, they'll be unable to utilize their strengths."