By JUSTIN RAINS
Tonight is shaping up to be a big night when it comes to the playoff-standing of the area’s three biggest boys’ basketball teams.
In the night’s marquee matchup, 17th-ranked and unbeaten-in-district Westwood travels south to face rival Elkhart, which currently occupies the third-place spot in District 19-2A.
While Westwood has yet to lose a game at all in district play, both of Elkhart’s losses (to Westwood and Crockett) have come on the road. EHS coach Ryan Blackmon said he’s stressed the importance of homecourt to his team during the push for the playoffs.
“I told the guys coming in that (district) was going to be a dogfight,” Blackmon said after his team’s home win over Woden earlier this month. “I told them coming in that home games were going to be important.”
As for Westwood, a road win over a big-time district foe would be another feather in the Panthers cap. Westwood already owns a road win over Central Heights, but still must travel to both Crockett and Woden before district is done.
Getting to 8-0 with four games to play would give Westwood at least a three-game cushion over fourth-place Woden and would allow them to move their lead over second-place Crockett to a game-and-a-half. The Bulldogs have a bye today.
“(It’s) real important considering we only have two home games left on the schedule,” WHS coach Scott Nettles said. “We better prove that we can win on the road if we have any chance in a district race or in the playoffs.”
Both Woden (3-3 in district) and Central Heights (2-5) should get wins today, as the Eagles host winless Groveton and the Blue Devils host Garrison (1-6).
PALESTINE at Rusk (boys)
Palestine faces a big test today as well, when the Wildcats hit the road to take on Rusk in a battle for third-place in District 19-3A.
Rusk is currently tied with Fairfield at 2-1, by virtue of their upset win over Mexia last Friday.
But, a road win by Palestine today would move both teams to 2-2, giving Palestine the advantage thanks to the team’s final matchup being played at Palestine High School.
“This game is a big game because it is a district ballgame,” PHS coach Bret Botard said. “Every district win is crucial when you are trying to secure a playoff spot. Obviously, this win would put us in a tie for the third-place playoff spot with Rusk.
“I expect us to play our best basketball of the season tomorrow as we try to put ourselves in the best position for a playoff spot we can after the first round of district play.”
Rusk’s two wins — over Groesbeck and Mexia —have both come by one-point, while the Eagles are coming off of a 30-point loss at the hands of Fairfield Tuesday.
District-leading Mexia (3-1) has Friday off, while Fairfield (2-1) travels to Groesbeck to face the Goats (0-3).
Laneville at OAKWOOD (boys)
After taking over the top-spot in District 25-A, Division II last Friday with a 93-77 win over Chireno and then rolling past Groveton-Centerville 81-36, the seventh-ranked Panthers will look to avenge their lone district loss of the season Friday.
Oakwood hosts Laneville, who topped the Panthers 73-64 on Dec. 21.
An Oakwood win would put the Panthers two games clear of Laneville with four games remaining in district and would keep them at least a game ahead of Chireno (5-2), which faces a tough road game in Douglass (4-3) Friday.
Lovelady at SLOCUM (girls)
Big-time matchups aren’t just reserved for the boys this weekend.
The ninth-ranked Slocum girls will look to avenge their lone district loss of the season today as they welcome in 13th-ranked Lovelady, who currently sits atop District 20-A, Division I with an unbeaten mark.
A Slocum win would pull them even with the Lady Lions, while a Lovelady win would almost surely secure another district title.