Tigers to host Panthers for in-county rivalry game Saturday

Published 3:59 pm Friday, December 8, 2017

One of the most highly-anticipated matchups of this year’s basketball season is occurring just two weeks into it.

The Greenville Tigers will host their in-county rival, the Georgiana Panthers, today beginning at 4:30 p.m.

First-year Greenville head basketball coach Marcus Mickles said that the Tigers’ home opener is an important opportunity to set a positive tone for the season.

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“Like we always say, there’s no place like home,” Mickles said.

“We get an opportunity to play in front of our fans, and they travel pretty well anyway, but it’s good to see our own goals and play in our own gym. It gives us an opportunity to be comfortable and not play in a hostile environment.”

The nature of the rivalry between the Butler County schools noticeably raises the stakes, Mickles added; and more notably, the attendance.

“These bleachers will probably be sold out by halftime of the JV game. It’s a really big game, and the kids have been talking about it here and there.  It’s always pretty competitive.  They’ve beaten us the last three times we played each other, so it’s going to be really competitive.”

Whereas the Tigers are seeking to feed from the energy of their home crowd, the Panthers instead hope to keep a cool head amid one of the most hostile road environments the team is likely to face.

“I think we’re going to have some guys step up that haven’t played in an atmosphere like this yet, and they’re going to have to show that they can play under that kind of pressure,” said Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris.

“These are the kinds of games that get you ready for regions and Birmingham, when you’re playing in front of thousands of people.  If our guys can step up and play to our level, I think we’ll be successful tomorrow, and that will get us ready for later in the season.”

Mickles added that Georgiana’s traditionally athletic, run-and-gun teams are difficult to slow down, but he believes his Tigers have the size and athleticism to match their pace.

“It’s just about the will and the want to–who wants it worse. We’re pretty well matched on both sides,” Mickles said.

“We have to rebound the basketball and limit their second-chance baskets. It’s been hurting us a lot this year.  But if we get rebounds, protect the basketball and limit our turnovers, I think we have the opportunity to beat anybody.”

Norris said that his Panthers are still seeking to find and develop chemistry among the team’s younger members, many of who are seeing their first varsity starts.

For Georgiana, focus will be the name of the game.

“Of course, Greenville always has talent, and we know it’ll be one of the best teams we’ll see just because they’re a larger school,” Norris said.

“It’s a big rivalry, but like I always tell me kids we do our talking between the lines and we’re going to focus on what’s going on on that court and nothing else.”