Sunday, February 18, 2018 7:50 pm
North Side looking to overcome layoff entering sectional
AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette
North Side has a battle – against itself – heading into the boys basketball sectionals Feb. 27-March 3 as the postseason draw was announced Sunday.
The Legends (18-5) drew a first-round bye in the Class 4A sectional at East Noble, which means two full weeks without a game before playing DeKalb or Snider in the second round March 2.
"It's a long layoff," North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. "We don't have a game scheduled next week. We have to focus on staying sharp. We're concerned about the long layoff. The draw itself is one we'll take."
Last year, the layoff wasn't a concern due to a veteran group that finished as the Class 4A state runners-up. The concern this year is the details for a relatively young team.
"(The long layoff) wasn't a factor last year but we had a veteran group of guys returning," Khaliq said. "They've had been through it before. We'd much rather have a game under our belts going into this week instead of almost two full weeks of practice."
East Noble (19-1) has two more games this week at Angola and Elkhart Memorial and is riding a 10-game winning streak that includes clinching the outright Northeast Eight conference championship.
The Knights will play Feb. 28 against Bishop Dwenger (11-10) who they beat 48-41 on Feb. 7 at home.
"There's really not a team in our sectional that I'm not exited about drawing," coach Ryan Eakins said. "We're excited but we'd be excited about whatever the draw was. Dwenger's obviously a good team. We found that out first-hand when we played them at home. We hope it will be a great atmosphere; we know we'll play a great team. They're well-coached. We know they're going to be 100 percent prepared. We'll do our best to slow them down and give them a great game."
With a 10-0 record at home this season, Eakins appreciates the opportunity to play host to a sectional in familiar surroundings.
"Obviously the routine you get into when you play at home is an advantage but at the same point, there's not going to be a band or the traditional hoopla," Eakins said. "It's nice to play at home; it'll be comfortable shooting at rims that we're used to, but we still have to go out and win."
The Knights haven't won a sectional game since 2008 and have been without a sectional title since 2001.
"I would say that's one of our advantages going into the tournament. Our kids know how good they are, and they know they're capable of competition against anyone," Eakins said. "Regardless of who you play, our kids feel like they can compete with anyone. They have that confidence but they're still a team that respects everyone. We talk about respecting everyone and fearing nobody.
"With Dwenger, there's a respect factor, we know how hard they're going to play, we know what type of game we're going to get. Our kids are confident in their ability and what they can do."