McConnellsburg and Southern Fulton's girls basketball teams should theoretically be very prepared for the District 5 Class A playoffs.
The squads will face a very familiar opponent in the opening round – each other.
"I would say it's definitely an advantage," SF girls coach Terry Bard said. "We're both familiar with each other and what we do, what to expect. There isn't much guessing going on."
The No. 5-seeded Indians (13-9) will travel to No. 4 McConnellsburg (12-10) on Friday night for a 7 p.m. tip-off in a quarterfinal.
Both schools' male counterparts, on the other hand, are facing the unknown, or lesser known, anyhow.
Fourth-seeded McConnellsburg (16-6) will host No. 5 Shade (12-10), while the top dog, Southern Fulton (22-1), plays host to No. 8-seeded Meyersdale (8-14). Both of the boys games will be held Thursday at 7 p.m.
On the girls side, the Spartans and Indians have faced off twice this season, with Southern Fulton earning the win both times. But neither was out of reach for McConnellsburg.
"The first time we played them (a 50-38 loss), we were at home and had a cold day of shooting and got ourselves into a hole," Spartan girls coach Brent Seville said. "Then when we played on their floor, we matched up well, but just came up a little short toward the end (in a 51-47 loss)."
The matchup features two of the area's leading scorers. McConnellsburg's Bronwyne Mellott is averaging 22.7 points per game, while Olivia Mottern scores 17.0 ppg for Southern Fulton.
"We'll be ready for (Mottern); I'll put it like that," Seville said. "We've struggled with scoring outside Bronwyne and Sam Roberts (6.9 ppg), but we've got some bench players that could come in and make a difference."
Bard said, "We know (Mellott) is going to be a really big part of their offense, but I think Shaye (Smartt) and Liv have done a decent job on her. But you're not going to stop her. If you're expecting to shut down a Bronwyne Mellott, you're crazy. Liv is our best scorer, and that's no mystery. But we're going to need everybody contributing at this point."
While the expectation is a close girls game, that doesn't ring true for the Southern Fulton boys.
The Indians have not lost since Dec. 12, while Meyersdale took losses in its last two regular season games. The Red Raiders have two players, Riley Christner (16.4 ppg) and Cole Clark (14.0), who are big offensive threats, but Southern Fulton counters that with three of its own — Dylan Gordon (15.4), Connor Litton (15.1) and Trent Rider (15.0).
"They're relatively athletic," SF boys coach Kent Hendershot said. "Riley Christner is averaging in the mid-teens, so we'll obviously have to contain him. But really, we just have to do what we do. This is certainly not a game we're scared of."
For McConnellsburg's boys, the Spartans will enjoy an advantage it hasn't had much at all this season – size. Aaron Fyock, a 6-foot-3 guard, is Shade's biggest player and is averaging 13.8 ppg, while Jeremy Pyles is the biggest offensive threat, scoring 19.9 ppg.
"It's probably the first time all year that we're going to be bigger than the team we're playing," Spartan boys coach Dane Pollock said. "Pyles is more of a penetration guy, and Fyock does a lot of shooting. They play both zone and man, but their zone is a little unorthodox; it's like a 1-1-3 at times. It leaves open shots, but isn't something we've played a lot."
McConnellsburg's boys may be facing the most unfamiliar challenge of the four local teams. The Spartan boys have not won a playoff game in 11 years, while the other three were all in the hunt just last season.
"The way I look at it is, the kids are excited and this is all new territory to them," Pollock said. "I understand nerves, but most of the time, McConnellsburg basketball is hanging it up right now. Our whole mentality was to change the program, but we don't want to stop here."