Friday night is going to tell us a lot about what's to come in the Mid Penn Colonial Division this boys basketball season.
Shippensburg is fighting tooth and nail to show that it deserves to repeat as the division champions, and Greencastle-Antrim is trying to prove just how much it has improved. On Friday night, the two meet.
"Shippensburg right now is looking forward to the challenge of winning back-to-back titles," Blue Devil coach Gary Martin said. "They feel that it's a matter of if they execute, they're the favorites to win it, and they have every right to believe that. But we're really eager for the challenge."
Greencastle (1-1) has some slight advantages over the Greyhounds (2-1, 1-0 MPC). The game was originally scheduled to be played in Ship, but has since been moved to Greencastle. The Blue Devils also have not played since Saturday, while the Hounds faced Waynesboro on Tuesday - a game that Martin and the Devils scouted.
"I don't know if it's an advantage or a disadvantage that they've seen us because we played pretty darn well," Ship coach Ray Staver said. "I know everyone is a bit concerned about our legs, which is obviously something we'll have to deal with."
But Shippensburg has some clear advantages of its own. The Hounds have a distinct edge in height with Wade Mills (17.7 points per game) and Teagan Staver standing at 6-foot-5 and 6-4 respectively. They also have a pair of pure shooters, Shuntan Hickman (14.7 ppg) and Carter Van Scyoc (8.7), and guard Cody Gustafson is averaging more than five assists per game.
"Obviously it's very difficult for teams to focus on one aspect or just one or two players," Ray Staver said. "If we're unselfish enough and teams are shutting down the inside, we'll find the perimeter, but if they're holding down our guards, we're able to get it inside to our post players. It's a very nice balance."
Martin said, "It's going to be very difficult to defend them, but we're going to make a good effort."
Greencastle plans to stick with its effective man-to-man defense and will be looking for players such as Brandon Stuhler, Ian Gelsinger and Sam Sprague to give a spark of energy. Offensively, the Blue Devils' biggest threat is Casey Hoover, who had double figures in both games of the Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament.
"I've been very impressed with Brandon Stuhler," Martin said. "The energy he gives us on offense and defense is great. Sam Sprague has come back from his injury and just plays so hard. He's such a leader to our team. Ian Gelsinger's defense has gone a bit unnoticed, but not by our coaching staff. He was pretty darn good against (Chambersburg's) Cole Christian."
Staver said, "They are much improved; there's no doubt about that. It's gonna be a big road game for us, and with the electricity that will be in that gym, I would think high school basketball players would relish playing in that environment. We'll see how our guys respond."
Greyhounds-Blue Devils at a glance
Game data: Shippensburg Greyhounds at Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils ... Mid Penn Colonial Division boys basketball game ... Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for live updates ... Livestream will be available on www.GameTimePA.com and midpennbroadcasting.com.
Teams: The Hounds are 2-1 (1-0 MPC) after defeating Waynesboro on Tuesday, 68-44 ... Greencastle is 1-1 and has not played since Saturday when it lost to Chambersburg in the Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament championship.
Series: This is the teams' first meeting this season. Ship swept the Blue Devils last year.
P.O. pick: Hounds by 8.