EPIC REMATCH: Terra Ceia hosts Pungo with conference title on the line
Published 4:45 pm Thursday, February 4, 2016
PANTEGO — The NCISAA Tarheel Conference is a two-horse race and, as expected, Terra Ceia and Pungo’s battle for first place comes right down to the wire. The Knights are a perfect 10-0 (prior to Thursday’s game against Lawrence) in the league and the Raiders have just one loss.
Should the Raiders win Friday’s season finale on enemy ground, they will earn a share of the conference title. Terra Ceia will win it outright with a victory on Friday.
The two teams met nearly a month ago on Jan. 12 at Pungo. The game was as close as expected. The traveling Knights took a one-possession, 42-39 lead into the fourth quarter. It was close until the very end when Terra Ceia went on a 10-for-10 run at the free-throw line to pull away with the 64-52 win.
A 12-point difference is not nearly indicative of how close the game was throughout. The first meeting doesn’t give much of a blueprint for success to either team. Of course, free throws will be important for both sides. Neither can afford to leave any points on the table.
That said, the game plan for each team should remain somewhat the same. After all, both strategies have worked all season. Why fix what isn’t broken?
For Terra Ceia, the strategy will be to jump out in transition and push the tempo on offense. The Knights use their zone defense to trap the opposition and force turnovers, which in turn fuels their run-and-gun attack. Their incredible team chemistry makes it seem like each player knows where his teammates are without looking. No-look passes in transition are one thing that makes this team so much fun to watch.
Pungo hopes to negate that by slowing the game down. The Raiders will need to be careful and protect the ball if they hope to deny Terra Ceia the chance to score on the run. On offense, they play a much more methodical game. They slow down, move the ball around and attack any and all openings.
It was the Raiders’ perimeter defense that helped make the first edition of Pungo vs. Terra Ceia a close contest. The Knights are usually able to knock down 3-pointers that help ignite runs. They couldn’t do that on Jan. 12. They made just three of 19 shots from behind the arc.
Pungo, playing on the road this time, will need to contest those long-range looks again. Ben Hubers, who scored 15 points against Pungo, has continued to come into his own as a dominant scoring threat. He leads Terra Ceia with a 32-percent effectiveness from the perimeter.
The Knights’ defense will likely key in on Will Respess and Landon Woolard. The duo combined for 28 points last time. Woolard is the Raiders’ quarterback on offense, too. He is averaging just over three assists a game. Making sure things run smoothly will be important to earning a share of the championship.
The boys are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. The clash will be preceded by the girls’ varsity game between the Lady Raiders and Lady Knights. Those two teams are in the thick of things in the middle of the conference standings.
If history tells us anything, Friday evening in Pantego is sure to be a classic.