McConnellsburg vs. Southern Fulton is still a big game
It would be almost impossible to duplicate the hype surrounding the three McConnellsburg vs. Southern Fulton boys basketball games last year.
All three were tense, low-scoring games played in front of full houses, and the last came in the District 5 Class 1A championship.
But this year's teams are doing their best to live up to the rivalry.
And they are getting riled up for the first meeting this Friday when the teams play in Warfordsburg. The Spartans enter with a seven-game win streak and a 10-3 record, while SF is 10-2 and has won eight of its last nine. Southern Fulton also has a 20-game winning streak vs. McConnellsburg.
"There doesn't seem to be as much talking about this as there was last year," Indian coach Kent Hendershot said. "Since they're 2A this year (and SF is 1A), maybe that took a little luster off of it. We're not trying to build it up too much, but you can tell the kids are a little anxious."
The Spartans lost more players from last year's team and have a new coach, Drew Washabaugh, who saw the series from a little different perspective a year ago when he was the JV coach.
"I told our kids last year that you'll never play a JV game in an atmosphere like this with the gyms packed like they were," Washabaugh said. "And we won both JV games last year. Our team is basically Chase (Novak) plus our JV kids from last year, so maybe winning those games last year can help their confidence."
Novak leads McConnellsburg with 17.5 points per game, and is getting plenty of help from Chance Hawbaker (11.8) and Ethan Barclay (10.2).
Hendershot said, "With them having three guys averaging in double figures, we'll have to pay attention to our coverages. They all have the capability of shooting well and scoring, so we will need to compete on defense."
Dylan Gordon recently became Southern Fulton's all-time leading boys scorer, with over 1,400 points. He is putting up 20.3 points per game, with the next highest scorers being Chase Varner (9.5) and Carl Potter (8.0).
"Gordon is just a horse," Washabaugh said. "You watch film on him and you can see that his basketball IQ is just off the charts. You're not a fluke when you are your school's (all-time) leading scorer."
The Spartans lost back-to-back close games at the Fannett-Metal tournament, and in both games they held leads of 10 or more points.
Washabaugh said, "Those were two tough losses. But since then we've held onto leads and even though we didn't play well against Forbes Road, we found a way to win. We didn't panic. That's what we can't do Friday."
Hendershot will not be surprised to see another low-scoring affair.
"Both teams work hard on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "Our offense just needs to do what we do well, we can't let them dictate to us. That's what happened in our two losses."
While we can only guess at the outcome of the game, some things are for certain: it will be a full gym, it'll be rocking and the game will be intense.
Spartans-Indians at a glance
Game data: McConnellsburg Spartans at Southern Fulton Indians ... Friday, 7:30 ... Sideling Hill and Inter-County Conference game.
Media: Follow @LiziArbogast on Twitter for updates.
Teams: McConnellsburg is 10-3 (7-1 SHL, 5-1 ICC) and comes in with a seven-game win streak ... SF is 10-2 (6-1, 5-1).
P.O. pick: Indians by 6.