RIVERDALE — No disrespect intended Drew, but Union Grove feels it has some unfinished business to attend to tonight.
If you look at the final score from the Jan. 7 game between these two Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A foes, you’ll see what looks like Drew dominance.
The Titans defeated Union Grove 85-69 on the Wolverines’ home court, but ask Wolverines center Jay Shorts, and he’ll tell you that it is always beneficial to take a second look at things.
“We see that game, and we feel like we should’ve won it,” Shorts said.”We felt like we were the better team, and we just let it slip away.”
Of course, isn’t that what they all say? But that game was different, Shorts insists. That final score wasn’t indicative, he says, of how things went early on.
“We were up, I think, mostly all of the first and second quarter,” he said. “And at half time, we were up and intense and we were hungry. But they came back and took it from us. We felt like should’ve won, but we just couldn’t match their intensity.”
Apparently Shorts isn’t alone in his line of thinking, either.
“We blew that game in the third quarter,” Union Grove point guard J.P. Plummer said. “In the third quarter, they just came out with more intensity than we did. We suffered from it, couldn’t contain it in the fourth (quarter), and weren’t able to come back from it.”
So excuse Union Grove for playing the revenge card. In this case, it seems to fit.
“I think the revenge factor will be a huge factor in this game, because we felt like we shouldn’t have lost the first one in the first place,” Plummer said.
If the Wolverines can defeat Drew tonight it will do so on the Titans’ home court, in front of what may be a hostile crowd on Senior Night. Furthermore, the win would put Union Grove (14-6, 7-4) a half game up on Drew in the subregion standings, heading into the final four games of the regular season schedule.
What’s more, the Wolverines have seemingly taken the sting of that loss and used it as fuel for a strong finish. The 16-point setback was part of a four game skid, but Union Grove will come into tonight’s game riding the crest of a three game winning streak.
During that stretch, Union Grove has an average margin of victory of 22.3 points. For Shorts, it simply means that his team has chalked the hurt from that loss up to growing pains.
“We’ve definitely grown a lot from it all,” he said. “We come to practice every day. We work harder, talk and communicate more, and that was evident in the Mount Zion win. Our energy level is higher. We are starting to understand that we can’t play good for half the game, and not good for the other half. That’s not a good look on us.”
Drew coach Jarrod Davis said what he sees when he looks at Union Grove is a team that has the ability to do things that others may not think it can do.
“They are a very good team, and they are more athletic than people give them credit for,” Davis said. “It is going to be a battle. We are going to have to play our best to give ourselves a chance to win. They shoot the ball extremely well and really execute.”
Drew will be looking use its defense to create turnovers that lead to easy transition buckets. It was the formula the Titans used last time to get over the hump against Union Grove.
“Coming in to the season we spent more time on our defense, and the scoring showed in our record,” Davis said. “We are so small so we have to play defense as a unit. We can’t just be an individual team.”
Plummer, a senior, said a victory tonight would be a huge career milestone. That’s why he’s not shy about using what some may consider hyperbole to describe the magnitude of this game.
“To win this game, in that environment, it would be amazing,” he said. “It would probably be the biggest win in my time in high school.”
As for Shorts, he said he isn’t worried about venues or environments. He just wants to win.
“All we have to do is maintain our composure,” Shorts said. “It’s their senior night, and all, but we have to just block all of that out. We need to be engaged in the game, and not engaged in the atmosphere.”