Preparing for Tuesday's 6 p.m. Class 2A Orion Sectional semifinal, the Sherrard girls' basketball team didn't have to dip too deeply into its scouting dossier.|
Two weeks ago, the Tigers (26-3) met up with their Tuesday night opponent, Knoxville (26-7), and came out on top in a 48-44 decision.
Sherrard coach Doug Swanson hopes for the same outcome the second time around, but with less suspense.
"We should have a good feel for what type of team they are and what type of players they have, but it'll be the same thing for them,'' he said. "Hopefully we'll be ready for what they're going to throw at us. Knoxville is a very tough team that gets after it on the defensive end and is very physical. We've got to play with all the intensity and physicality we can play with.''
After handling West Central North rival Orion 63-28 in the Rockridge Regional title game for its third straight regional title, Sherrard also is yearning to finally take the next postseason step after suffering bitter disappointments in the sectional finals the last two years. The Tigers have not won a girls' sectional basketball crown in 23 years.
"Our girls have played in these situations before and have that experience,'' said Swanson. "They also have that bad taste from 2012 (a 49-48 Sweet 16 loss to Eureka), and they want to get over the hump, but they also know it's not going to be easy for them.''
Led by their 1-2 scoring punch of Kelly Lenz and Haley Jones, the Blue Bullets are another team looking to get over the hump, as it took an 18-of-27 effort from the free-throw line by the Tigers to make the difference in the teams' Jan. 28 meeting at Harry Hunt Gymnasium.
Tuesday night's sectional game is almost a home date for the Tigers, who only have to make the short trek east to Orion High School.
"That's a big change from previous years,'' said Swanson, whose club has had to travel to Manito Midwest Central and Knoxville the last two years. "Not having to go far, with a short bus trip, hopefully that's an advantage for us.''
Likewise, Swanson also hopes his team's pursuit of that long-elusive sectional championship doesn't distract too much from the task at hand Tuesday night.
"We've got to make sure we're focusing on Knoxville, and only them,'' he said. "We need to take care of the ball and get good looks on the offensive end, and rebounding and defense will be key, especially against a big team like Knoxville has.''