Griffin (7-8 overall, 4-3 region) is coming off a 42-34 win over Upson-Lee while Spalding (8-6, 2-4) has lost two straight, including a 64-35 blowout to Jonesboro.
Needless to say, both teams’ players are looking forward to round one of the regular-season matchup. They’ll play each other again on Jan. 26 at Spalding High.
“I think this will be a good game because we grew up playing with each other in the park and rec leagues,” said Griffin junior Alexis Roberts.
Griffin Lady Bears seniors Xandria Hosely, Deineria Phillips and Chelsea Prather also said they look forward to protecting The House tonight.
“We’ve got the home court advantage for this first game, so we’ve got to win. We have to play smart and play good defense,” Hosely said.
“We’ll be pumped up to play. I think we’ll do fine because our defense has gotten better and we communicate better too,” said Phillips.
“We’re determined to play well and to stop them from talking over there,” Prather said. “We’re going to let our play do the talking.”
Second-year Lady Bears head coach Veronica Lee said despite the hype that’s been around the school and in the community about this game she has stressed to the team to keep everything in perspective.
“To be honest, it’s one game out of the next 9 games we have to play in the regular season. It’s a big game and a region game so it is important, but we can’t get involved in the hype,” she said. “We have to do what we do best and that’s play fast and put pressure on them.”
Lee said the key to the game for her Lady Bears is to force turnovers on defense and play smart on offense.
At Spalding, Lady Jags seniors Veronica Anderson, Grenishia Daniel, Isis Ochoa and Shaquoria Reid said they plan to play much better tonight against Griffin than they did against Jonesboro on Tuesday, emphasizing hard work and pride as their mantra.
“We’re going to show up and show out,” Reid said. “Jonesboro was a hiccup — that game is over and now we’ll be ready to play Griffin.”
Anderson said she’s not worried about playing in Griffin’s gym for this first matchup between the teams.
“It may be a different gym, but we want to make it our house,” Anderson said. “No disrespect to them, but we want to take over and get a road win.”
“Despite our last game, we still have confidence in our abilities,” Ochoa said. “We should be fine.”
Daniel said she’s not worried about the hostile environment that awaits Spalding at The House.
“We have a great mindset and we won’t get caught up in any hype,” she said. “Our play should do all our talking for us.”
First-year Spalding head coach Chad Hubbard said his team might have a slight advantage tonight: They play well on the road.
“I don’t know if it’s because of too much pressure on us at home, but our record shows we play very well away from home,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to do that — we have to execute, play smart and play team basketball and that will give us a chance to win.”
Hubbard said he’s proud of how his team has played, since this is the first year they’re in Class AAAA and played that caliber of competition while Griffin has played AAAA ball for years. Despite that, he feels his team should be okay tonight.
“I’ve told my girls that the pressure is on them, not us. We’re going to their gym,” he said.
Both Lee and Hubbard have told to their players to be respectful of each other and not get into any “craziness” on the court.
“I just hope the game will be a good, well-played game with plenty of sportsmanship at the end,” said Hubbard.