When Dunham boys basketball coach Jonathan Pixley tells his team not to look ahead to other games during the season, this Friday against Episcopal is the game he’s talking about.
Not only is Friday night a matchup between heated rivals ranked in the top 10 of the LHSAA unofficial power rankings for Class 2A, but the winner also takes a much-needed step closer to securing at least a share of the District 8 title.
If Dunham wins, the Tigers only need to win one of its last two games to take the crown. If Episcopal wins Friday on its home court and both teams win their last two games, it forces a co-district championship.
And with the pressure of the game building, Pixley said he is hoping the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” rings true in his young team.
“The best part about youth is that we don’t know any better,” Pixley said. “A bunch of these young guys going into it, while they understand the rivalry is there, they don’t understand the magnitude of it, so it’s not as pressure-packed for them as the guys who have been around.
“I wouldn’t want to use the word ignorant with my guys, but that’s the general idea of it.”
The No. 5 Knights (25-4, 4-1) and No. 9 Tigers (25-4, 5-0) already met once this season in an overtime thriller that resulted in a 61-48 Dunham win.
It was one of the more important wins of the season for Dunham, giving them a boost of confidence while simultaneously putting them in the driver’s seat to control their destiny for the league title.
Episcopal coach Chris Beckman said his team isn’t looking at Friday night with a revenge factor, but it is hard to push Dunham freshman Ty Spurlock’s game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation completely out of their minds.
“The best thing to learn from it is to not let it happen again against anybody, but especially not the same team that’s done it to you once,” Beckman said. “It’s already such a rivalry to begin with that I think with high school kids it gets blown out of proportion, and you don’t play real well. We try to keep it in focus — one game at a time — but there’s no getting away from it being very big and very important.”
Across town in District 4-5A, Scotlandville looks to extend its one game lead over Denham Springs when the Hornets tipoff against Walker at 7 p.m. at SHS. The Yellow Jackets host Central at 5 p.m.
In District 5-5A, McKinley can build on its one-game lead over East Ascension at 7 p.m. against Broadmoor.
The Zachary and Denham Springs girls could force a district tiebreaker on Saturday if the Broncos beat Live Oak and the Yellow Jackets beat Central. Both games are on the road.
If both teams win, their only losses would be to each other, and they would play Saturday to decide the district champion.