Eastern, Bloomfield to play Saturday

Friday, January 2, 2004

Though tired and a bit banged up, Bloomfield and Eastern will still have plenty to play for on Saturday when the T-Birds pay a visit to Glover Gymnasium.

In two other games involving SWIAC teams, top-ranked White River Valley (6-1) will play at Edgewood (1-5) and Shakamak (6-4) will host West Vigo (4-6).

Third-ranked Bloomfield (9-2) finished up play at the Wabash Valley Classic on Tuesday, losing 34-31 to Terre Haute North in the championship game. The Cards are returning home after eight consecutive road games.

Eastern (2-6) didn't have a very good experience playing in its first WVC, dropping all three games.

This will be Eastern's first conference game of the season, while the Cards are 4-1. The Greene County Keg, which is in Eastern's possession, will also be at stake.

"More than anything we've got pride," Eastern coach Andy Igel said of the game's motivating factors. "This is a game you play for. It's a big game because we're only 10 miles apart. Obviously, if you have any hope of winning the conference it's a game you have to win."

Eastern defeated the Cardinals 51-40 last season at Toby Yoho Gymnasium. The last time the teams met at Glover Gymnasium the Cards edged the T-Birds 12-11 when Jon Neill hit the game-winning shot.

Both coaches are curious as to how their teams will play coming off a busy schedule in Terre Haute.

"The only good thing about Saturday's game is that we won't have to get on a bus," said Bloomfield coach Ron McBride, who gave his team New Year's Day off. "I don't really know how we'll play. I think you can throw out the records when we play Eastern. We expect it to be a dogfight."

How competitive the T-Birds are may depend on whether leading scorer Brandon Deckard plays. The senior guard averages 20.7 points, but has missed the last five games due to a high ankle sprain.

"It's 50-50," Igel said of Deckard's chances of playing. "He has practiced, but he's not 100 percent. I don't know whether to play him or look at the long term, (the Greene County Invitational is next week). We sure want him to play, but it's a high ankle sprain which is harder to get over."

Bloomfield will prepare for the T-Birds as if Deckard will play.

"Deckard got 33 points against Mitchell," McBride said. "I saw them play Owen Valley and they played well and Owen Valley's got a good team. They've got some good young kids and Andy's done a good job working with them."

Igel has nothing but praise for Bloomfield.

"I don't have to tell anyone how good they are," he said. "They've won nine games and they've lost to two very good teams by a small margin. They are senior dominated, balanced and unselfish."

The Cards have three players averaging in double figures, led by R.J. Hughes' 11.4 average. Jon Neill is scoring at a 10.9 clip and Corey Sparks adds 10.0 points. The other starters, Nathan O'Neall and Jordan Clark, average 6.0 and 4.5 points respectively.

"Bloomfield has so many weapons, to me they have four double figure scorers," Igel said. "Probably their only weakness is their bench, but Ron's done his typical great job and they'll be a tough matchup for us."

The toughest thing for the T-Birds may be trying to score against the Cardinals, who are only allowing 34.1 points.

"Their defense is very good with all of their switching," Igel said. "A lot of teams don't know what to run against it."

McBride said the Cardinals received a compliment about their defense from Terre Haute North coach Jim Jones.

"He said their biggest concern was whether they could score against us," McBride said.

WRV returns to action for the first time since last Saturday in New Castle at the Hall-of-Fame Classic.

The Wolverines gained a split with two of the top teams in 4A. They lost to Columbia City, which took top-ranked Lawrence North to double overtime, then beat 10th-ranked Northview.

"The big concern to me is not having a mental letdown coming off the Hall-of-Fame," WRV coach Sean Vandeventer said. "My concern is how we approach the game."

A.J. Graves, who leads the SWIAC with a 23.1 average, is coming off a school record 45 point effort against Northview, which also broke the Hall-of-Fame scoring record.

Graves is the only WRV player averaging double digits, but all five starters have been in double figures at some point this season. James Floyd averages 9.7 points, Jordan Schantz 7.3 and Mike Powell and Cody English are both at 6.1.

Edgewood has struggled under first-year coach Jay Brown, but the Mustangs have also played a tough early season schedule. Three of their losses have come to Bloomfield, Bloomington North and Northview. The Mustangs were somewhat competitive with Northview, losing 78-62.

"To me they're a scary team," Vandeventer said. "They're big and physical."

Edgewood has struggled to score consistently and the Mustangs are only averaging 40.2 points. The Mustangs' only victory came against Greencastle, a team with a 7-4 record.

WRV and Edgewood have played very competitive games the past two years. The Mustangs won 45-43 two years ago and the Wolverines needed a 70-foot shot from Graves to win 59-56 in overtime last year.

The Wolverines also can't get caught looking ahead to next week's Greene County Invitational, which they will host.

"This is a busy stretch for us with six games in 12 games, but thank goodness five of them are at home," Vandeventer said.

Shakamak is on quite a roll after starting out 1-3. The Lakers have won five of their last six games and will bring a three-game winning streak into Saturday's contest. Only a late field goal by Monrovia kept the Lakers from winning four games at the Wabash Valley Classic.

Josh Netherlain, who scored 74 points with 13 three-pointers in the tournament and made the All-Tourney Team, leads the Lakers with a 16.2 average.

The Lakers are getting scoring from several different sources with six players who have been in double digits. Seven Shakamak players have made three-point field goals this season and the Lakers lead the conference in that category with 63 treys.

West Vigo is 4-6, but the Vikings have played much better than their record. They lost to both New Creations Christian and South Vermillion by two points at the Wabash Valley Classic.

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