There’s a definite air of optimism surrounding the Currituck boys and girls basketball teams for tonight’s 3A state playoff openers.
It’s there for three reasons.
One, although the Knights and Lady Knights have losing records, they both played well late in the season and in last week’s Northeastern Coastal Conference tournament.
Two, they are playing at home.
And three, well, it’s a bracketing thing.
“It’s exciting to know we are the higher-seeded team for once and we’re not going to be playing someone who is 24-0 or something,” said Currituck girls coach Lindsay Cahoon.
That’s right. Thanks to the two-year-old pod system that creates geographic brackets designed to reduce travel costs, both Currituck teams enter as No. 8 seeds in the section instead of something in the high 20s or 30s for the entire region, as has been the case in many previous years.
It’s fair to say that based on records, the Currituck girls (6-17) are favored over their ninth-seeded opponents from West Brunswick (3-18) in the 6 p.m. game and the boys (9-16) hold the same status over No. 9 South Brunswick (3-20) in the 7:30 p.m. nightcap.
Victories would end long losing streaks in state tournament play. The Currituck boys have not won since 1998 while Cahoon said it’s been “about 10 years” since the girls have won a state playoff.
Knights coach Robert Woodley said he is not looking at this game as a lock, however.
“The one thing we’ve tried to get across to the kids is to not take South Brunswick lightly,” he said. “It’s one-and-done now and a whole new season for everyone.
“We’re one of the 64 3A teams across the state who are playing and hopefully we will have some opportunity for success.”
Cahoon and Woodley believe victories tonight will mean a lot to their programs, which are showing signs of turning around after years of struggling.
“This would be a really big deal because it would show that all the hard work they have put in is paying off,” Cahoon said. “I’m very proud of how hard they have worked. It started back in the summer when we had a huge turnout.”
“It will definitely be a boost to the kids coming back next year and a little reward for the others who have endured the last four years,” Woodley said.
The Knights and Lady Knights have showed some gumption lately.
The boys knocked off an Edenton team that had beaten it earlier in the season, then dropped an overtime decision in the NCC tournament to Hertford, which had scored two easy wins over Currituck during the regular season,
The Lady Knights upset defending tournament champion Northeastern in the tourney opener, then just missed on making it to the final when they lost to second-seeded Bertie 70-68 in the semifinals.
Both coaches are pleased with how their teams are playing.
“The effort and attitude have been great all year,” Woodley said. “And the kids believe in what we are trying to do. We played well enough to beat Hertford, but even after we lost they came in and practiced hard Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
“We’ve been a young team for so many years, but now we are putting it together,” Cahoon said. “We’ve played hard every game and been in all but two or three of them this year.
“Everybody is excited that we have another chance to win a game at home for Kayla Powell, our only senior.”
If Currituck wins tonight’s games, the task will get much tougher as both will likely face top seeds on the road Wednesday. The Lady Knights should be playing Eastern Wayne (25-1) while the boys could meet Rocky Mount (22-2).
But those are problems for another day.
“We’re just taking things one day at a time,” Woodley said.
The Pasquotank girls and Northeastern boys are the only other local teams playing at home tonight.
The Lady Panthers (22-1), the top seed in their 2A pool, host Corinth Holders (8-15) at 6 p.m. (tickets $5) while the No. 4 Eagles (21-4) welcome Roanoke Rapids (11-11) at 7 p.m.
In other 2A games tonight, the Northeastern girls (16-8) go to Cedar Ridge (16-9), the Edenton girls (13-9) visit Northside of Jacksonville (22-4) and the Edenton boys (14-7) are at Bunn (20-6).
In 1A openers tonight, the Camden boys (18-7) are at Voyager Academy (16-9), the Camden girls (7-17) play at River Mill Academy (23-3) and the Perquimans girls (14-1) travel to Weldon (20-4).
Tonight’s Local Playoff Games
Corinth Holders at Pasquotank, 6 p.m.
W. Brunswick at Currituck, 6 p.m.
S. Brunswick at Currituck, 7:30 p.m.
Roanoke Rapids at Northeastern, 7 p.m.