NIC-10 favorites Boylan, Jefferson prepare for first showdown

Chris Miller, fresh off an all-tournament performance in the Pekin Holiday Tournament, prepares to lead the Boylan Titans into a match-up of conference unbeatens against the Jefferson J-Hawks. Photo by Matt Nestor

By Matt Nestor

Sports Columnist

After a slew of tournament games for NIC-10 teams over the holiday break, teams get ready to settle down and get back to the conference grind this week.

Friday night, Jan. 8, Auburn hosts Belvidere North and East heads to Hononegah in important games to the overall standings. Boylan hosts East Saturday, Jan. 9, but the night before, the game of the week will be at Boylan as the Jefferson J-Hawks come in as matching conference unbeatens.

For Boylan, they will look to use their size to wear down the J-Hawks. Nick Bauch, Armani Flannigan and Jason Painter all will have a heavy advantage against the smaller J-Hawks.

The Titans like to punish teams with their size on the boards, taking away any second chances for their opponent while seemingly gaining additional shots on almost every missed shot of their own.

If guards Chris Miller and Michael Morman can handle the Jefferson pressure, it could lead to a long night for the J-Hawks. The Titans have played well when Miller is controlling the game and getting into half-court sets.

Jefferson will look for their organized chaos and deep bench to rule the game. The J-Hawks use substitutions like a hockey team uses line changes, bringing in their players in waves.

The J-Hawks will press for the entire game, and run out on every opportunity they can get, whether it is after a make or a miss. They use their athleticism to make up for their lack of size. Against a much bigger Belvidere North team, the J-Hawks broke even on the boards by simply jumping over their opponent.

Jefferson is at their best when they can knock down the outside shot. They can get to the rim at will, and Mario Manns always brings his A game. If Dez Agee, Royce Dixon, Jermarkus Lovett, Mershon Wilkes and the rest of the J-Hawks can knock down shots on the outside, their pressure and athleticism could be the difference in the game.

This is a game that will go a long way in determining the NIC-10 champion, though Hononegah will have a lot to say before it’s all over. Boylan needs to protect home court, while Jefferson hopes to pick up their third road win already in the conference.

Boylan is going to look to slow down the game and use their size to gain an early advantage in the game. The Titans have struggled early on with teams speeding their guards up and taking away that size advantage.

Jefferson will stick close in a very tight game, even grabbing a brief lead in the fourth quarter. But the size advantage and superior free-throw shooting—as well as a home crowd—will get the lead back for the Titans, who should be able to pull out a 72-67 win.

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From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue

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