There’s always something a little different to a district game. The teams know each other well and the fans do too. District opponents don’t go too long without seeing each other again. These match-ups often can come down to bragging rights until the next meeting.
Tonight’s girls’ basketball game between Elizabethtown and North Hardin goes beyond a pair of crosstown district rivals. It has placing ramifications for the 17th district.
The Lady Panthers currently sit in first place, The Lady Trojans are right behind in second. Both teams have 12 wins overall. In district play, Elizabethtown holds a slight edge at 3-0, with North Hardin at 2-0.
A win-loss record like this is familiar territory for the Lady Panthers (12-2, 3-0 district). At the same time, coach Donnie Swiney said his team is preparing for a strong effort from its opponent.
“North’s gotten better. They’re pretty solid defensively,” Swiney said. “We’ve got to come out, we’ve got to be focused and we’ve gotta be ready for whatever they throw at us. They’ve gone on a pretty good run here.”
With a win, North Hardin (12-4, 2-0 district) could move up to be the last undefeated team in the district at 3-0. Despite the pressure of playing a talented Lady Panther squad, Lady Trojan coach Whitney Hooper said for her girls, it’s business as usual in terms of preparation.
“We have a good understanding of their size and how difficult that is for us to match up with. We’ve talked about being under control and taking care of the basketball and how vital that is to counter some of their size,” Hooper said. “The good thing about these games is when we go into them, the girls know each other. They’ve grown up playing against these girls and they know what these girls are good at and they know their strengths and weaknesses.”
Hooper said with their opponents’ size comes an added speed that will be a challenge to match up against for the smaller North Hardin squad. Additionally, Hooper complimented Elizabethtown’s ability to create offensive opportunities.
On the other side, Swiney explained the Lady Trojans’ defensive pressure would be a tall task to overcome.
“They’re holding teams to minimal scoring and we’ve got to be able to find a way to get the ball in the bucket,” Swiney said. “We know that they’re gonna come out fired up and we’ve gotta match their intensity and be ready to go play 32 minutes.”
While his team’s size allows for some speed, Swiney also was complimentary of the Lady Trojans’ quickness, especially amongst their guards. One player that was brought up in particular was senior guard Addison Sutton.
“The Sutton kid can shoot it from anywhere, so we’ve gotta be able to know where she is at all times and not give her any room to breath,” Swiney said. “It’s something we’ve gotta be weary of and know where their shooters are at all times.”
In addition to Sutton’s quickness and shotmaking ability, Hooper said other players such as fellow Lady Trojan guards Jadeta Gregory and Dez Bryant also could make a big impact.
Because of some adjustments to the speed of Gregory’s game this season, Hooper explained she could help swing the game in North Hardin’s favor, especially on the defensive end.
“She’s a different player this year then what we’ve had in years past,” Hooper said. “Her ability to play at a speed defensively that we need, but be able to control pressure better than she has in years past, I think hopefully helps us in some areas we’ve really struggled in.”
Elizabethtown has been battling both injuries and illness as of late, but recently had a key player return to the court.
Senior guard Whitney Hay, who had been out since suffering an ankle injury against Barren County on Dec. 14, was back in the lineup this past Saturday in a 69-17 victory over Fort Knox. Swiney said since returning, Hay has been feeling well and her ankle has responded well to her playing time.
“She’s a tough matchup for them. She can go inside and outside,” Swiney said. “Whitney being on the floor makes an impact, just having her back in the lineup.”
Hooper said Hay’s return also would play an impact in her team’s preparation for the game.
“Whitney’s a special player, so any time she’s on the floor, you have to game plan for her,” Hooper said. “You have to try to attack her and the luxury they have is that they can’t just focus on her. As much we talk and game plan and we’ve prepared, what we’ll have to do and what adjustments that makes, that just makes everyone else on the floor better.”
The district battle tips off at 7:30 p.m. at Elizabethtown.