The Girard boys' and girls' basketball teams have one last non-league game before beginning league play next week.
For the No. 3 Trojan girls, tonight’s Homecoming opponent features a 9-2 Labette County squad, which is ranked as the six-best team in Class 4A Division I basketball as late as Jan. 18, according to the KCBA. For the Girard boys, it’s a chance to extend their undefeated start to the 2015-16 season.
But there is one thing in common with both teams: battling fatigue.
Last week, the Trojan girls won the Wilson County Tournament, knocking off Fredonia 53-47 before turning around and beating Parsons, 47-32 on Tuesday. It was the fourth game in less than a week for the Trojans, forcing Girard to alter its practice
“We didn’t go as long in practice. We’ve tried to stay in shape," Girard head coach Brad Herlocker said." Saturday took a lot out of us. We looked tired on Tuesday. We’ve been trying to find a balance of keeping in shape and staying where the girls aren’t over worked.”
But the Trojans will be looking to be fully refreshed by the time tonight’s game starts.
“We probably were worn out on Wednesday,” said Girard head boys coach Rod Wescott. “Hopefully, we’re full steam ready to go tonight. It’ll be homecoming for us. We just need to come out and play hard and play smart. If we do that, good things will happen.”
The Trojan girls have been on a 10-game winning streak, not losing since their second game back in December, which was a road loss to the Pittsburg Purple Dragons.
“We are on a winning streak,” Herlocker said. “The girls are getting better. I’m proud of them. They’re playing really well. It’ll be a great way to see where we are.”
The Labette County Grizzlies, on the other hand, have a similar record with players such as Tristan Gegg and Erica Gartner
“They’re very talented,” Herlocker said. “They have a great program over there. They do a good job of playing the guard position. We’ll have our hands full. It’ll be a tough game. Gartner and Gegg are good. They can also shoot the 3-ball.
"Inside, they have some nice posts who do a good job of pounding the ball. It’s a very good group. I’m glad to get to play them. It’ll present a good opportunity for us to see where we are.”
In Girard’s win over Parsons, Ashley Ray and Sydnee Crain dominated on both ends of the floor. Ray finished the night with 19 points to lead the Trojans, with 13 of them coming in the second half which helped Girard establish themselves on the offensive end.
Ray scored the first three baskets of the third quarter which helped Girard to a 16-point lead.
“Overall, I think we need to improve on every facet of the game,” Herlocker said. “Our offense and defense and our man-to-man needs to improve. I’m proud of where we are as a team though. We are much better than what my expectations were at the start of the season.”
The Trojan boys may be undefeated with a 12-0 record, but for Wescott and his players, it’s all a matter of taking it one possession at a time.
“We’re trying to focus on us and make sure we’re doing the right things,” Wescott said. “That’s something that we have to make sure of and take care of the basketball. We need to make every possession count. Hopefully, we’ll do that tonight and be solid.”
The biggest challenge has to not let the undefeated record get to them and the Trojans almost lost it on Tuesday, needing overtime to sneak by Parsons, 70-68.
“I’ve had several people ask me about the undefeated season in that last week,” Wescott said. “They’re asking about how we’re looking at it. We’re talking to our kids and we want them to focus on just the next possession. Not just the next game but the next possession. We have to do a better job of evaluating each possession.
"At the state tournament, the game slows down a lot. There’s not a lot of possessions like during the season so we have to start valuing the ball more. We have to make sure that we’re getting stops on the floor. We have to be focused. We feel like if we do that, good things will happen for us.”
Laike Damman led the Trojans with 25 points on Tuesday night, while Drew Davied scored 22 points in the win over Parsons.
The Labette County boys have struggled for much of the season, with a team that includes mostly freshmen and sophomores but Wescott is anticipating a tough game nonetheless.
“They’re very young,” Wescott said. “They haven’t won a lot of game like they have in the past but their coach has done a really good job with the players. They’re starting to come along. They have a bunch of sophomores and freshmen this year. They’re getting better and better and it just shows what they’re capable of. They can score a lot of points. We have to know where their scorers are and contain them. It’ll be a hard fought game. we have to make sure that we’re on our game.”
The Girard girls will tip off at 6 p.m., with the boys' game to follow.
Michael Bauer is a sports reporter for the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter at @michaeljohn391.