Harrisburg has already taken the sting out of one IHSA Class 2A Sectional opponent in the Chester Yellow Jackets; on Friday they go for more than the clean sweep against the Nashville Hornets.
Nashville stands in the way as the only team to prevent the Bulldogs from making back-to-back trips to the Elite 8 in Monday’s Super Sectional at the SIU Arena in Carbondale.
The two teams do have some history in the Elite 8 as Nashville twice knocked off Harrisburg back in 1997 and 1998.
Harrisburg doesn’t plan on letting history repeat itself and head coach Randy Smithpeters acknowledged the success Nashville (24-7) has had over the past decade.
“A fellow River-to-River competitor that has played good competition all year long and has without a doubt the best freshman big man in southern Illinois and one of the best big men completely,” Smithpeters said.
Smithpeters, of course, is talking about 6-foot-6 freshman Royce Newman. Nashville stays tall in the post with another starter, 6-6 senior Devin Holle.
“They surround him (Newman) with some guards that can really shoot. They are a team that is very disciplined and will come in Friday night ready to play and prepared.”
Nashville survived a scare from Mt. Carmel Tuesday night and were on hand Wednesday to take in the Harrisburg/Chester affair.
Brad Weathers and Nashville - long known for being a half-court team - that takes pride in playing a slow down offense and milking the clock while on offense gives Smithpeters and crew a new scheme to schedule for.
“They give us a little bit of a different flavor than what we are used to - in the fact that they will be very patient - making us defend and making us defend for two or three minutes at a time,” Smithpeters said. “We hope to get off to a good start, like we do almost every night.”
That will be an important factor when you play a team like Nashville.
“It will be a challenge, no doubt and it’s life on the bubble,” Smithpeters explained. “We have to defend and be prepared and do the things we have to do to give ourselves the best opportunity to win.”
Michael Dann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @spydieshooter.
Class 2A Sectional Championship
Harrisburg vs. Nashville
When: 7 p.m.
Where: West Frankfort, Max Morris Gymnasium
Radio: WEBQ 1240 AM
Records: Harrisburg (29-1), Nashville (24-7)