Game of the Week: McConnellsburg vs. Southern Fulton
Every game last year, McConnellsburg inched closer and closer.
The first time around, Southern Fulton looked like it couldn't be stopped and won by 31 points. The second meeting, McConnellsburg made obvious adjustments and improvements, but the Indians still captured a 15-point victory.
The Fulton County rivals met again the District 5 Class A semifinals, and Southern Fulton escaped with a narrow win, 55-47.
On Friday night, the Spartans could be poised to take that final step and do what they haven't done since the 2006-07 season - get a win - when McConnellsburg hosts Southern Fulton in a Sideling Hill League/Inter-County Conference boys basketball showdown.
"We know each other well," Spartan coach Dane Pollock said. "This is like playing with your brother in the backyard. It's a dogfight, but we know what we're in for. It's so exciting for our community; it's like another holiday in Fulton County."
This year, McConnellsburg enters with a 9-1 record, while Southern Fulton is 7-2. Both are undefeated in the league.
The Indians have two obvious standouts - Dylan Gordon (16.8 ppg) and Trent Rider (15.7 ppg) - but the Spartans have shown a bit more depth.
Jake Boehme (13.2 ppg), Ian Cheatle (11.0) and Chase Novak (10.8) are all averaging in double figures, while Quintin Miller and Landon Richards are not far behind with 7.4 and 7.3 ppg, respectively.
"Well, I think I can go deep, too," SF coach Kent Hendershot said. "They do a lot of scoring out of their depth, though, so we have to be cognizant of everybody rather than being able to key in on one or two guys."
Southern Fulton, on the other hand, is looking for someone to step in to fill the shoes of Connor Litton, the reigning P.O. Player of the Year, who averaged 19.7 ppg against the Spartans a year ago.
"Connor was very good at cleaning up, and we are missing that this year," Hendershot said. "We're missing that person that when all things break down, you have him. I have a team that any one of four guys can have a big night; we just need to get more consistent."
The next-highest scorers for SF behind Gordon and Rider are Carl Potter (6.7) and Zach Clark (5.2).
"All of those kids have made shots against us, though," Pollock said. "Chase Varner and Zach Clark have made some big shots; I swear, Branden Lynch grows every time I see him. We respect all their players. We know what Trent and Dylan can do, so we have to play good man defense and keep doing what we're doing."
While the Spartans may be looking to pull out the victory, it's not going to be an easy road for either team. The rivalry is clearly alive for both teams, and neither one is going down without a fight.
"This is what I love about our area that was missing for a lot of years," Hendershot said. "Everyone in this area will be at the game. It gives our county something to really talk about and enjoy. Hopefully everyone will get their money's worth - it should be a good one."
Indians-Spartans at a glance
Game data: Southern Fulton Indians at McConnellsburg Spartans ... Friday, 7:30 p.m. ... Sideling Hill League/Inter-County Conference game.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for live updates ... Livestream will be available on GameTimePA.com and midpennbroadcasting.com.
Teams: The Indians (7-2, 4-0 SHL/ICC) are coming off a win against Tussey Mountain on Wednesday ... McConnellsburg (8-1, 5-0 SHL, 4-0 ICC) has won three straight.
Series: The teams have not met yet this season, but Southern Fulton has won the last 17 matchups in a row.
P.O. pick: Indians by 5.