The 2017 high school men's basketball season kicks off tonight at Wood Memorial High School as the host Trojans take on the visiting Princeton Community High School Tigers in a Gibson County rivalry match.
"We're excited to get after it," said Princeton head coach Ryan Haywood. "I'm sure every team around the state is tried of beating up on each other. It should be a really good atmosphere and a good test for us against a really good team."
"We're ready to play someone else other than ourselves," said Trojans head coach Kevin Menke. "The guys have really been working hard to get to this point. They're excited to play Princeton just like every year. It's a big game and it means a lot to both teams. Both teams won't be 100% tomorrow but it'll be a great gauge for where we're at."
Both teams won't be at full strength to kick off the season. Princeton will be without starters Maleek Hardiman and Rylin Stough while the Trojans will be without Paxon Barltey.
"On Friday night at practice, Paxon Bartley tweaked his shoulder so he won't be playing tomorrow," Menke said. "Cameron Saulmon will fill in his hole and he's really solidified his varsity spot and deserves a starting spot. Walker (Nurrenbern), Lathan (Falls), Austin (Ireland) and Remington (Wilkinson) will be our five starters. We'll be a little different without Paxon in there, he'll be fine though. Just a scare for us. A couple more days and he'll be back out there."
"Stephan (Wilkerson) and the Dove brothers (Matt and Zach), along with Nick Albin, is where a lot of our points will come for us," Haywood said about key players heading into the season. "Drew Robb will start for us and Devonte and Dominic Hardiman will come off the bench. We need a big game from those experienced guys, even though they're only juniors."
Both teams played in scrimmage contests over the weekend. The Trojans battled Heritage Hills while Princeton took on Northview, both picking up scrimmage victories.
"I thought, even though it's a scrimmage, it helps get jitters out of the way," said Haywood. "I thought in the second half of that game that we played pretty well. We won four of the
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five quarters and I thought our kids competed well and executed well. Our defense was good at times. There are things we have to improve as the year goes on, but it was a good start for us."
"We found some things that we needed to work on," Menke echoed. "At times we looked really good, but there were some glaring weaknesses and holes that we needed to address. We'll see how we address those things against Princeton and where we need to grow."
The Trojans and Tigers tipoff at 7 p.m. at WMHS.