Are you ready for round two? I am.
When the county basketball teams take to the court in a few days, more will be at stake than another check in the win column — county pride is on the line. Pride that goes a long way when two rival schools separated by just four miles go at it in a heated showdown.
The Henry County and Eminence girls' basketball teams will play each other this Friday at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30. And as always, I'm excited to get the show started.
The first time the teams played this season — both at Eminence — Henry came away with road victories. The Ladycats defeated the Lady Warriors (46-9) back on Jan. 25, while the Wildcats defeated the Warriors (70-49) on Feb. 2. Now they're back for round two.
Henry coach Todd Gilley and his Ladycats came away with an easy 37-point victory over Eminence three weeks prior to this game, but as EHS coach Carter Martin said afterwards: the Lady Warriors didn't come ready to play. And Martin's hoping for a different outcome this time around.
Now that Candace Wells is sidelined for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, a lot of the pressure will be placed on point guard Rachel Raisor — Eminence's leading scorer and number-one option all season.
Meanwhile, the Ladycats have a number of players they can count on, including rising-star Jessica Booher and team-leader Kelsey Mings. Add sophomore Brittany Crawford and senior Jean-Anne Moore into the equation, and it could equal trouble for the Lady Warriors.
When the high school boys go at it, it's usually a back-and-forth clash and not decided until a classic finish. But when they met up just two weeks ago, the Wildcats came away with a 21-point victory.
On that night, the Warriors couldn't stop the shooting display from guards Joey Pollard and Ben Roberts, who combined for nine three-pointers. The Wildcats used a 24-5 third-quarter spurt to pull away to a comfortable lead and then cruised in for the victory.
But this time around, the Warriors should be at full strength with forwards Dustin Amarello and Justin Webb back in the lineup, along with a healthy Nelson Hedges. And if Ed Berry can catch fire, he could be hard to contain.
The high school teams across the state are heading down the homestretch of regular-season play and are preparing for district tournaments, and it's no different here in New Castle and Eminence. The four squads brought a combined 18-70 record into this week, with the Henry boys at 6-17, the Henry girls at 7-15, the Eminence boys at 2-19 and the Eminence girls at 3-19. After the games this Friday, two teams will get a needed win while the other two will take another loss.
The Henry-Eminence game in a few days is more meaningful than their previous matchup. Why? This will be the last county showdown this season, which means bragging rights during an entire off-season. Both schools are on trial Friday night, and although it's not in a courthouse, both want to come out victorious.
So, if the snow can stay away long enough to play, the teams are set to roll inside Roy L. Winchester Gym. I'm now counting down the hours, ready to watch some exciting basketball action.
Let the county showdown begin.
Tommie Kendall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.