FRANKFORT, Feb 26, 2013 (The Lebanon Reporter - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The last time the Lebanon Tigers boys basketball team walked off the floor of Case Arena in Frankfort, they had just been stunned by rival Western Boone in last season's sectional semifinals.
That loss has fueled the Tigers this season, and they take their 15-5 record into today's sectional quarterfinal ( 7 p.m. against North Montgomery at Frankfort) looking for redemption.
"It is incredible how huge it has been," Lebanon senior Cord Barricklow said of the motivation from last year's loss. "All I could think about this summer as I was working out and doing 1-on-1 drills was that feeling we got walking into the locker room after (Western Boone's) C.J. (McMann) hit that free throw. You remember that and it is still a gut feeling I get every night. All I can think about is the chance to cut down those nets."
The Tigers got a good draw, being put in the same side of the bracket as two teams they beat by an average of 40.5 points in the regular season.
But Lebanon head coach Albert Hendrix said at this time of the year, the regular season doesn't mean anything.
"We are pleased with the draw, but from a coaching standpoint the last two years, we know it doesn't mean much," Hendrix said. "We were the favorite the last two years, and we lost. Going into those we felt that we were probably the best team in it, but it didn't work out. We are just going to prepare for North Montgomery, I think Joel Grindle does a great job and their record doesn't reflect who they are. We are going to take this one game at a time."
The Chargers come into the game 5-15. Lebanon defeated them 63-36 in January and have won 19 of the 22 meetings against North Montgomery since the 1993-94 season.
Lebanon comes into the game ranked 12th in the polls and 10th in 3A (51st overall) in the computers. North Montgomery is 64th in the class (237 overall) in the computers.
Barricklow said the biggest thing is just getting over the nerves and into the game.
"It is a different feeling and a different game," Barricklow said. "There are only two of us that have played in a sectional before, and I haven't had great experiences -- I was injured my sophomore year and then last year we were done early. So just getting everybody in the flow Tuesday is important. With our rebounding, our hustle and our heart, I think we will be alright."
Classmate Caleb Brannon, the other Tiger with sectional experience, said that the Tigers just have to play relaxed and not over think the game.
"Our motto is 'don't think, anticipate and react.'" Brannon said. "When it comes down to it, it is about not thinking, just going out there and playing ... let our basketball instincts take over."
Brannon leads the Tigers in scoring, averaging 19.4 points a game.
Barricklow is averaging a double-double with 14.8 points and 11.6 rebounds.
The Tigers also have strong contributors in Jake Marshall (6.2 points), Nick Starkey (5.1 points, 4.9 rebounds), Jacob Nelson (4.2 points) and Tre' Comage (4.7 points).
Both teams have won twostraight heading into the game.
The Tigers won the regular season finale by overcoming a 12-point fourth quarter deficit and topping Noblesville on a Barricklow buzzer beater.
Hendrix said that the win was nice to have heading into the sectional, but the Tigers have to remember it doesn't affect Tuesday's game.
"Momentum wise, I don't know if it does much," Hendrix said. "We have won the Noblesville game the last two years, and unfortunately didn't get through the sectional. I think this year, our kids are hungry and they really want to win the sectional for themselves, the kids who couldn't win it the last two years, and the community. I think it surely is a good win, but our focus has to be on North Montgomery."
The Tigers had a 13-2 record on Feb. 1, but lost three-straight games before beating Hamilton Heights and Noblesville.
The three losses -- to Kokomo, Zionsville and Anderson -- have helped the team, Barricklow said.
"It was huge, not just playing the big bodies down low, but all over the court," he said. "We had a good stretch against 3A teams, then all of a sudden we hit 4A teams and we lost three straight. To be able to get better in these games and practice, two straight wins, shows how much we have improved."
Both Brannon and Barricklow said winning a sectional in their senior season would put an exclamation point on their high school careers.
"It would mean absolutely everything to me," Brannon said. "It is all I have ever thought about. I remember watching kids cut down the nets when I was in middle school and this past year watching the girls do it the past few seasons; I would kill for the nets."
Barricklow said it would rise to the top of his list of accomplishments.
"It would be the greatest thing I have ever done," he said. "I have never had an accomplishment that I look up to as much as a sectional championship."
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