By Mike Moore
Jackson — With the holiday’s fast approaching, spirits high and a merry cheer in the air, why not let two long-time, and sometimes bitter, rivals square off for the first time this winter on the hard wood?
It’s Jackson and Lumen Christi boys basketball, and Tuesday night, the first round of the 2016-17 seasons officially tips at 7 p.m.
“It’s the city championship, always a big game,” Jackson coach Dan Crowley said Monday. “No matter what, this is a big one.”
“You’re playing Jackson High, so you have to be ready,” Lumen coach Pat Neville said. “That may be the best team we see all year, so our approach has to be on a full, 32 minutes of solid basketball.”
Both teams are looking to get on track.
Jackson started the year with a 54-47 loss to Battle Creek Central, followed by an 82-65 setback to East Lansing.
The Vikings got their first win of the season last Wednesday in an 80-61 victory over Lansing Sexton.
Lumen started its season with three losses in a row before upending Northwest 58-44 last Friday.
But now, all attention shifts to this one, and for Jackson, the key will be tempo and discipline.
“Lumen’s going to try and slow things down,” Crowley said. “We have to play up tempo. We have to apply pressure, and we have to limit the amount of outside shots.”
The Vikings took 31 3-pointers in the season opener.
That number came down a bit the past two games.
“We’re not going to be bigger than anyone, so we have to find ways to get to the basket,” Crowley added.
Look for Shonte Suddeth to do just that in an attempt to duplicate his 23-point performance from the first meeting last year.
In fact, with the two wins last year, Jackson has now won three in a row in the overall series.
“Lumen is a team that’s going to come ready to play,” Crowley said. “We have to be ready.”
On the flip side of things, well, Lumen going to try and do the opposite.
“They are going to bring pressure. If we can handle it, take some good shots, we have a chance,” Neville said. “But we can’t start running around. We have show patience offensively and control tempo. We can’t have a possession with one shot and a pass.”
Neville said a good showing against Jackson could do wonders for his team.
“We’ve lost three games, and we were right in all of them in the end,” he added. “I feel like we have our legs finally. Now we have to go out and put a complete game together.”
For the Vikings, the chance to complete December in the right way is on the line.
“Our goal was to finish above .500 this month,” Crowley said. “If we can find a way to win this one, we have one more on Dec. 29 and the chance to go 3-2.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also the author of ‘Love, Defined; A Dedication to the Love, Sacrifice, and Magic of Motherhood.’
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