Dominant Knights continue playing with a chip

Published 5:41 pm Monday, February 13, 2017

PANTEGO — It will have been 95 days since Terra Ceia lost a game when it hosts Wayne Christian on Tuesday in the first round of the NCISAA state-championship tournament. The Knights suffered a one-possession loss to Wayne Country Day in their Nov. 11 season opener, but have won each of their 24 games since.

They’ve done so in dominant fashion much more often than not. Terra Ceia is averaging nearly twice as many points per game as its opponent. It has 2,213 points scored on the season, while the defense has conceded 1,169.

It’s been a while since the Knights lost a game. They may not remember what such a feeling is like, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing with a chip on their shoulder. They had won nine straight heading into last season’s first-round clash with Neuse Christian Academy.

“In the last two years, we’ve played Neuse. We’d have a great season, go up to Neuse or another state team and they’d whoop us,” senior forward Tyler Hendrix said. “Memories like that — memories of losing — fire us up and help us play to our full potential.”

Playing without senior forward Chase Furlough, Terra Ceia lost the game, 123-92. It was another instance of the Knights dominating not only the lesser Tarheel Independent Conference competition, but also the best it could find in the area, before running into a stout club from a bigger part of the state.

“We’re going to fight. I can guarantee that,” coach Roger Klaassen said.

Terra Ceia should be checked in come Tuesday’s playoff matchup. The crowd is always a source of energy for the Knights, but it will reach a fever pitch with them hosting the game.

Moreover, they got a bit of a wakeup call against Pungo in the first half of Saturday’s conference-championship game. The Raiders were able to keep up because foul trouble got Terra Ceia out of its game. It served as a last-minute reminder that the Knights have to tread a line of aggressiveness.

“I had been telling them for the last two weeks that we can’t just look at what we’re doing now. We’ve got to look at what’s coming down the pipe,” Klaassen said. “I still keep preaching that we’ve got to get better if we want to compete at the top level. When we practice, I preach it. Before a game, I preach it.”

Playing with an edge is what has helped Terra Ceia dominate every team in its path since Nov. 11. That edge will be the key component as they try to get over the hump on Tuesday.