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By Mike Moore
Parma — The opportunity at hand Friday night isn’t something lost on Ryan Mulnix.
Neither is the challenge.
For the second Friday in a row, Mulnix and his Western boys basketball team welcome in a top rival. Now it’s on the Panthers to end the second Friday in a row the same way.
“We have to be ready to play,” Mulnix said of his guys and their 7:30 p.m. tip with Northwest. “It’s not always easy to be at home on consecutive weekends against such big rivals. The key for us is being focused and coming out ready.”
Last Friday the Panthers did just that, taking what was a tight game early against Lumen Christi and turning it into a cake walk of a 61-47 victory.
Western improved to 9-2 on the season Tuesday night in what Mulnix called, “the best game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Trailing Harper Creek by 18 in the third quarter, the Panthers roared back for a 71-70 victory, getting the game-winning free throw with four seconds to play.
That win pushed Western to 5-1 in the Interstate 8.
A win Friday guarantees the Panthers at least a share of first place at the midway point of conference play, as Coldwater and Marshall each have one loss at this point as well.
That is the opportunity. The challenge is remaining focused enough to succeed against a Northwest team that comes in struggling and with just one win.
“We’re throwing out the record when it comes to this game,” Mulnix said. “Our focus is staying centered on what we do against a rival. Northwest has played harder than us the past few years. We took them a little lightly and they upset us last year.”
Northwest knocked off Western 57-53 last January.
“We want to pressure,” Mulnix added. “Northwest is more competitive when they slow things down. We have to guard against that. We want to use our athletes.”
With Steele Fortress and Desmond Price inside, Western will again have a size advantage to rely on.
But after going 0-for-14 from 3-point land in a loss to Marshall, the Panthers’ shooting touch has also come back.
With guys like Connor Cottingham, Tyler Jones and Evan Thomson heating up, Western has made 13 3’s the past two games.
Still, Friday night presents what any team can hope for, a chance to control its own destiny and secure itself in what should be a battle for first down the stretch.
“There are games to be had We don’t want to be right there in the end, we want to find away to ahead of those other teams,” Mulnix said. “We have a chance to get to 6-1, and that’s the key right now. If we can do that, we’re in a good position before the second round of conference play.”
Mike Moore is a play-by-play commentator and Sports Writer for JTV Sports.
He’s also a Real Estate agent with Real Estate One, specializing with buyers and sellers throughout Michigan, from the Jackson area to metro Detroit. You can reach him at email@example.com or by calling (313) 770-6365 with any inquiries.