For more on prep basketball, follow The News-Sentinel.com crew via Twitter at PrepHoops_ns.
After battling for four quarters during game play and after the whistle in the SAC Holiday Tournament last week, Wayne and North Side hope this Friday's rematch at By Hey Arena will be more focused on the on-court entertainment.
The teams got into a heated exchange in the fourth quarter of the Generals' 63-59 victory eight days ago. Tempers seemed to rise as the back-and-forth game went on, but things exploded when Wayne's Kye Black hit the ground while boxing out. He and North Side's Sean McGee were involved in an altercation and players and coaches grouped around the incident.
In the end, Black and an additional Wayne player were ejected as well as McGee for the Redskins.
“It was a heat of the moment thing for both teams,” Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer said. “There was some play that the refs could have done a better job controlling over the course of the game that led up to it.”
In accordance with IHSAA rules, anyone ejected from a game must sit out the next contest. Wayne's ejected players sat out the SAC Holiday Tournament semifinal against Concordia Lutheran, a 61-45 loss.
North Side (5-4) has not played since the defeat, hence McGee, a starting guard, will not see action.
“The game could have been called a bit tighter, especially with the two (Black and McGee) involved,” North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. “There were points in time where a whistle could have been blown or where Coach Rehrer and I should have subbed those guys out to calm them down a bit.”
Regardless of where the blame lies for last week, Friday's matchup is huge for both teams. North Side and Wayne are one of six teams in the SAC that currently sit at 1-1 in the league, with Concordia the lone undefeated at 2-0. Falling two games behind this early in the conference race is almost impossible to recover from.
“Anybody who picks up their second league loss on Friday is out (of the title race),” Khaliq said. “I do not see Concordia losing twice and not sure if Northrop loses twice unless Concordia gets them.”
The Generals (6-2) have been flying under the radar for the first half of the season, with their two losses coming to aforementioned Northrop and Concordia. A win Friday would further feed the confidence of Rehrer's team.
“Maybe we're not playing the best basketball (in the area) or we're not fun to watch or something,” said Rehrer about the lack of attention his team has gotten. “I think Wayne doesn't get a lot of respect in anything.
I don't mind being the underdog though.”
North Side has underwhelmed so far this season despite one of the most talented rosters in the Northeast Indiana. It will have to find a way to win a huge game Friday without one of its playmakers in the backcourt in McGee.
“I compare us to a beautiful home without a good infrastructure,” Khaliq said. “We look every bit the type of team that should be dominant and aggressive … but they don't have that type of mindset.
I can handle getting beat, but I do not like losing. If we play hard but get beat, that I can live with, but we have lost a lot of games this year with our lack of effort.
“If someone told me after most of our games this year that our team played hard, I would say they were lying.”
A year ago, North Side beat Wayne in the Holiday Tournament with the Generals returning the favor barely a week later. On Friday, the shorthanded Redskins try to return the favor.
“We look great on paper and we've hung our hats on that, maybe even as coaches too,” Khaliq said. “But we have to have more energy and play harder because Wayne is a tough team.”