What to expect from Indians-Spartans Round 3
Call it a premonition. Call it fate. Call it what you will, but I think we all expected this day would come.
On Friday, McConnellsburg's boys basketball team will have its third date of the year with Southern Fulton. It hasn't come out on top in a very, very long time. This one, though, is for all the marbles.
The Indians (20-5) and Spartans (21-3) will meet at 8 p.m. Friday at the University of Pitt-Johnstown for the District 5 Class A championship.
Despite the regular-season sweep, SF is the No. 2 seed to McConnellsburg's No. 1, but the Spartans are treading in unfamiliar territory. McConnellsburg hasn't been to the District 5 final since 2002 and has never won it. The Indians, on the other hand, were in the big game a year ago.
"We feel confident," Southern Fulton junior Dylan Gordon said. "We know they're going to come after us, and we have to be ready. We'll have to be able to weather the storm, but we'll be ready. We just have to work harder than them."
I've done preview upon preview for this game during the regular season - and even last year in the District 5 semifinal. Actually when I told Spartans coach Dane Pollock I wouldn't be doing a formal preview for this game due to timing issues, he laughed and said he and SF coach Kent Hendershot were repeating themselves anyway.
You know what to expect. I know what to expect. Southern Fulton knows what to expect. McConnellsburg knows what to expect.
That's what happens when you play your biggest rival in the biggest game of your season - of your career for some of these kids.
SF, as we know, is led by Gordon (16.3 ppg) and Trent Rider (15.9), while others have stepped up big time - Carl Potter was a huge reason for the Indians' success in the semifinals. Branden Lynch has become a fine inside presence, and Zach Clark has been known to hit big shots when necessary.
As for McConnellsburg, the Spartans continue to boast depth. Jake Boehme (12.3 ppg) and Chase Novak (11.7) are the offensive leaders, but Ian Cheatle (9.8) and Landon Richards (9.1) aren't far behind. Quintin Miller has also been a force inside, despite missing six games down the stretch due to injury.
You may ask, who has the advantage? Southern Fulton has won the last 19 games of this series, so it's hard not to lean toward the Indians. But it's pretty clear that the Spartans have the talent to beat SF. They just need to get over that mental hump.
Pollock once said how difficult it is to get over the hype, and that GameTimePA.com doesn't help. I'm sure I don't, because I'm certainly looking forward to a good one.
Note: GameTimePA.com will be livestreaming the game, or you can follow me (@liziarbogast) on Twitter for live updates.