Lovejoy coach Rick Francis says he is looking for his team to “get better and build some confidence” heading into the latter part of its regular season schedule. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — It is a game with no region implications, but when Lovejoy hosts Riverdale tonight, it is still an important game.
The winner of the non-region match-up gains some county bragging rights for two teams in the thick of their respective region races.
“Every game is important, especially a rivalry game,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said. “Although this game has no bearing on the region standings, we are looking to get better and build our confidence. It is a game where we have to maintain our focus and take this as far as we can.”
This game will definitely test Lovejoy’s concentration level as they have a key Region 2-AAAAAA contest the next day against Morrow. The Wildcats and Morrow are in a battle for the region’s regular-season title.
“Morrow is an extremely important game, because everybody is playing for seeding purposes,” Francis said. “We don’t underestimate anybody that we play regardless if it is a region game or not. We live by the philosphy that on any given day, anybody can be had.”
Riverdale is trying to recover from a pair of tough Region 4-AAAA, Div. B losses to Jonesboro and Spalding, which prevented the Raiders from having sole possession of first place in the subregion. Sandwiched between those two losses is a win over Houston County on Monday in the Copeland Hardwood Classic in Macon.
In the Jonesboro loss, Riverdale was without starting point guard Trey Sanders and sixth-man Rashad Canty, who were both on football recruiting trips in North Carolina. Sanders was visiting Campbell University while Canty was at Wake Forest.
Although Sanders will be back for tonight’s game, Canty will be in Nashville visiting Vanderbilt over the weekend. Raiders guard Isa Muhammed will also be on a recruiting trip this weekend.
“After putting together some wins, we got a little complacent,” Brinson said. “Playing without Trey and Rashad did hurt us because Jonesboro beat us up pretty bad. We are heading into the home stretch so I look for us to play a lot better now.”
“We just have to come out and play hard each game,” Sanders said. “We are in a must-win situation for our next three games. We are looking to make a run. This Lovejoy game will be a big test for us.”
Riverdale is 16-5 overall and are lead by senior Quincy January, who is averaging 19.8 points per game. The Wildcats are 11-4 overall and have three players scoring in double figures per game.
Lovejoy is led by Marlon Curington, who is averaging 13.6 points while DeAndre Mathis has contributed 13.5 points and Jahir Cabeza is averaging 12.9 points per game. The teams are pretty evenly matched as Riverdale averages 58 points per game while Lovejoy scores 59 points a contest.
“We hit a little rough patch in our schedule, but I think we are on our way to recovering,” January said. “This sort of thing happens to the best of teams. We are looking to gain some momentum as we start preparing for our region tournament. This game is huge as well as the rest of the games on our schedule.”