Coaches say it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season. It must be even harder to beat the same opponent three times.

That’s the task ahead of the Baton Rouge Community College men’s basketball team at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the Region 23 tournament against No. 2 East Mississippi Community College in Clinton, Miss.

The third-seeded Bears (16-13) have topped the Lions (18-7) twice this season. The first victory came in November, when EMCC was ranked as high as No. 8.

BRCC delivered the Lions their first loss of the season in the 79-76 duel before beating them 70-62 less than a month later in Baton Rouge.

The stakes are higher now: Friday’s winner advances to the region championship against Pearl River or Northwest Mississippi at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” BRCC coach Ricky Wilson said of Friday’s matchup. “I think (EMCC) might have underestimated us a little bit the first game. The second game, I think we were really ready and prepared to play them. In their mind, they have some payback.”

On Wednesday, EMCC won its tournament opener 72-58 against No. 7 Mississippi Delta. Wilson said EMCC is a guard-oriented team that likes to boost the tempo. The solution? The same it has been all season for the Bears: defense and rebounding.

“We have to contest all of their shots, and we have to rebound the ball,” Wilson said. “It’s really just that we have to do what we do, and I think we’ll have a chance to win.”

On the season, BRCC snags just below 52 rebounds per game, compared to EMCC’s 38.6 average. The offensive boards kept BRCC alive in an 82-81 overtime victory against Southwest Mississippi Community College in its tournament opener, when it rebounded its opponent by 10.

Given BRCC’s eight-man roster, fatigue could become an issue, but Wilson quelled any concerns about that.

“We practice hard,” he said. “We run a lot, and we condition a lot. I try to put them in situations where fatigue is always a factor, and they have to play through that fatigue. I think we’ll be ready.”

Wilson said Thursday’s practice would be used to refresh his team’s memory on the game plan, fine-tune the defense and get as many shots up as it can.

“We’re going to try to keep it in the same routine as a Friday game,” Wilson said. “We’ll practice for about two hours and watch film. We’ll get a good meal, get some rest and get ready to compete.”