By Chad Dixon
Basketball resumes on Jan. 5 when Smiths Station (13-4) travels to play the undefeated Central Red Devils. As of press time, Central had only played five games to the Panthers’ 17. Both teams are coming off of tournament wins over the holidays. Smiths Station defeated Park Crossing in the finals of the Panther Holiday Classic on Dec. 16, 72-59 in overtime. The Red Devils won the Group A classification with a 55-48 win over Auburn High School in the finals.
Emotions run high in this rivalry and both teams want to take their playoff chances into their own hands. Last season, Central, Smiths Station and Auburn were 2-2 against each other in Class 7A Region 4. Central and Smiths Station split the season series, which each team winning at home. Smiths Station won 58-52 and Central returned the favor 10 days later 62-50.
Central hopes to have back senior Justyn Ross, who suffered an ankle injury early in the season and recently participated in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. In his absence, the Devils have relied heavy on Tremere Brown and Tremaine Porter. Smiths Station’s Stevie Pringle has been the key for the Panthers this season. He was named MVP of the Panther Holiday Classic and scored 31 points with a double-double in the championship game.
Each team would rather control its own destiny by winning all four region games, as difficult as it may be. The Panthers will turn around and host Auburn on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. ET. Central will travel to play Auburn on Jan. 12. Smiths Station and Central will re-match at Smiths Station’s gymnasium on Jan. 19.
Both teams have elite scorers that have scored 20 points individually; the key to the contest could be off of the boards. Central and Smiths Station both are averaging over 40 rebounds per game. The girls’ teams will tip off at 6:30 p.m. ET tonight and boys’ game will start around 8 p.m. ET.