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 Panthers Draw Hagerstown in Class 2A Sectional

February 20, 2008 - Most high school basketball coaches agree that teams who find their groove and get hot at sectional time are usually the ones who advance to regional action the following week.

The Class 2A sectional field at Hagerstown has several teams playing pretty good basketball right now. Eastern Hancock (11-7) is probably the hottest of the eight teams, winning their last five and eight of their last nine games. The Royals were 3-6 at one point this season, but have been steamrolling opponents while going 8-1 since. No team is hotter right now, and the Royals figure to extend that winning streak to seven straight and 10-of-11 with two weak opponents to close the regular season this week (Morristown and Hagerstown, both 2-15).

The Royals will face another very hot team entering sectional play in Centerville. The Bulldogs, also 11-7, figure to finish 13-7 as well. They close the season against Union City and Cambridge City, and have won their last two games. Centerville and Eastern Hancock met in the season opener and the Royals won in three overtimes, 67-61.

Four teams have winning records against the sectional field, including the Royals (4-0) and Bulldogs (6-2). Knightstown is 5-3 against the field and considered one of the top four teams in Sectional 42. The Panthers (8-12) drew a Hagerstown (2-15) team that they just defeated Saturday night, 78-49.

A win over the Tigers would pit the Panthers against the winner of the Royals and Bulldogs. The team is working on solving some season-long problems that have cost them at least seven potential wins this year.

“We know what our weaknesses are and we’ve been preaching to the kids all year long about those,” Panther coach John Howell said. “Even though we won by a big margin, those problems were still there during the Hagerstown game. We’re going to concentrate on those this week. There is still so much more improving that this team can do.”

Howell was pleased with the sectional draw. The Panthers got the Tigers in a rematch that might be a closer contest than last week’s 78-49 thrashing. But the team should still win.

“I’m not concerned with getting the kids motivated to play hard against Hagerstown,” Howell said. “It’s the sectional. And they know if we get past Hagerstown we’re going to get the winner of that Eastern Hancock and Centerville game and that should be plenty of motivation.”

In the top bracket it’s anybody’s guess what will happen. The Lincoln Golden Eagles (7-12) play Shenandoah (6-13) in what could be a decent match, although the Raiders have played a much tougher schedule. Game two pits Union County (10-10) against Northeastern, who is 8-10 and reeling with a five-game losing streak. The Knights have not won a sectional game in six years.


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