March Madness gets an early start for thy boys’ basketball team tonight and it will be a tournament opener unlike other post seasons.
Not only are the Warriors getting a rebirth on a 10-16 campaign with hopes of making a post season run, they start against rival Highland Park at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Rolling Meadows Regional.
The fact the Giants have topped Deerfield twice this season—57-39 Jan. 6 and a 37-35 overtime thriller Feb. 10—is not lost on senior captains and or Coach J.J. Pearl.
“It’s a great rivalry. It’s always a good game when we play them,” Pearl said. “We found out about the pairing that night,” he added referring to learning of the Regional match up with Highland Park Feb. 10.
That was the night Giant Danny Delugie’s three-point shot with two seconds remaining in overtime erased Deerfield’s lead. Watts is looking forward to the rematch.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season,” Watts said. “We made a great post season run last year and we plan to make one this year,” he added referring to the Warriors 2011 Regional championship.
The Regional presents a new beginning for every team in Illinois. Even a winless squad can reach the state championship game. No one is left out.
“This is a fresh start and we are set to make a run,” Watts said. “If we give everything and the others follow it won’t be too hard to make a run.”
While the Warriors have had their disappointments like the overtime loss to Highland Park or seeing a second half lead vanish in a 55-54 loss to Niles West Tuesday, they will try to remember moments like their 48-42 overtime win over Central Suburban League champion and highly ranked Glenbrook North.
“We know we can play at that level,” Pearl said. “We’ve had a handful of one point games that if they had gone the other way we would have had four or five more wins.”
For Sacks and Watts, the memory of the victory of the Spartans is something they remember and believe they can duplicate depending on their senior leadership, among other things.
“That was three months ago,” Watts said. “We remember what it feels like. If we lead we hope everyone will follow and have that mindset.”
In addition to Watts and Sacks, the Warriors are counting on help from . The sophomore tandem has been contributing to the effort all year but Porter has missed a number of games recently because of illness.
Pearl said Porter has returned to practice and will be ready for Highland Park tonight. “We got him a few minutes Tuesday (against Niles West),” Pearl said. He expects Porter to make a full contribution tonight.
Right now, the Warriors are not thinking beyond Highland Park. They know the team well but the Giants are familiar with the Warriors as well. “We will make adjustments but so will they,” Pearl said.
Sacks echoes Watts’ view about the Regional opener and the difficulty any time has with a three peat over a rival. “Our mind is on Highland Park Monday,” Sacks said. “It’s very hard to beat a team three times in a season.”