Tonawanda News — The basketball season is in full swing and the T-NT rivalry is in full effect this weekend as the Lumberjacks (0-2) host the Warriors (1-1) tonight at the Alumni-Student Activities Center.
The game may be without some of its usual luster, as both teams star players — NT’s Ian Gilhousen and Tonawanda’s Clayton Hess — will be in street clothes, but the atmosphere should provide a quality basketball game.
”Two years ago when we were there that place was jam-packed and it sounded like a college game,” said Tonawanda coach Hank Hughes. “The kids had a hard time and we ran a lot of set plays and the guys couldn’t hear anything.”
Both teams have had trouble minimizing turnovers early on in the season and that should be a key stat line to keep an eye on.
North Tonawanda coach Ryan Mountain was unhappy with the Jacks’ poor ball control in losses against Amherst and Oracle Charter last weekend, but he was thrilled with the way his team responded this week in practice.
“I loved that we hated to lose, I think that’s huge,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll come out of a very competitive tournament and a few players will be happy because they got a few baskets to fall. We were all business this week and came out ready to work.”
The Jacks were somewhat prepared to start the season without Gilhousen, but the Warriors were shellshocked when Hess went down on the opening tipoff of the season. Their play the rest of the way against Christian Central Academy and then in a loss to Roy-Hart on Tuesday was clear evidence.
The Warriors welcomed back point guard Ben Stitch last game and he scored 20 points in his first action of the season. Hughes said that he’ll have to be the quarterback out on the floor and facilitate the offense if the Warriors hope to compete on the road.
He said it all starts with handling the opposing team’s pressure.
”We definitely have to handle the pressure better,” Hughes said. “We’ve turned the ball over way too much. We have to be smarter than we were against Roy-Hart. We have to run and score points.”
Mountain said his team is excited to get out on its home floor and the key to the game will be who wins the battle on the boards.
”We’re excited. It’s our home opener and it’s against Tonawanda,” he said. “Both teams know each other very well. We just want to focus on executing our game plan and not getting to caught up in the hype of the rivalry.”
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.