That's the task at hand for the Clay City Eels as they open play at the Class A Martinsville Regional on Saturday afternoon. The Eels play in the second game of the day at approximately noon, following the 10 a.m. opener between Waldron and Bethesda Christian.
For an Eels' program that has gone 33 years between sectional championships, this week as been one of tempered excitement for the team while getting ready for the No. 1 ranked Jac-Cen-Del Eagles.
"The mood or atmosphere around school is good this week," Clay City coach Grant McVay said. "A lot of people are happy to see Clay City as one of the 64 sectional winners around the state. The challenge for us, preparation-wise, is to enjoy the experience while still focusing on basketball."
The Eels have also been balancing their school duties while getting ready for the regional experience. Several members of the team have had quite a busy week following a Sunday trip for a Business Professionals of America (BPA) conference in Indianapolis. The trip undoubtedly found some groggy Eels' basketball players after a late evening pep rally at the high school after the sectional championship on Saturday evening.
But McVay noted that his team has gotten back to work mid-week after a Tuesday practice held at the regional site in Martinsville.
"We practiced at Martinsville on Tuesday, so Wednesday was really our first 'regular' day back," McVay said. "Being able to practice hard and being able to watch tape as a group on Wednesday was a good way to start getting mentally ready for the regional. Like every other week, we are focusing on our next game. Our goal last week was to give ourselves the opportunity to play the next game, so our goal this week is to continue giving ourselves the opportunity to keep playing."
The Class A top-ranked Eagles are the first test, and a unique one at that, since neither team knows very much about the other. No common opponents exist between the schools and Jac-Cen-Del plays in the distant Ohio River Valley Conference.
"Preparing for Jac-Cen-Del is somewhat different in that we've not had the opportunity to see them in person," McVay said. "We are familiarizing ourselves as much as possible through tape, but it is different when you can't scout a team live in person. However, at this point in the season, we can't lose sight of the importance of playing to our strengths and focusing on doing what we do well."
Located in Osgood, Ind., Jac-Cen-Del High School lies in the southeastern part of the state near Milan, a school made famous as the small school that took down Muncie Central in the 1954 single-class championship.
The Eagles were most recently sectional champions in 2000, 2004 and 2007, with the 2000 squad claiming a regional title on its home floor.
In the opening game of the regional, two schools with a contrasting basketball history face each other as Waldron and Bethesda Christian meet.
Waldron is the 2004 state champion and have claimed four sectional titles this decade. The Mohawks have seven sectional championships to their credit, but went 77 years between their regional titles in 1927 and 2004.
Waldron (10-12) is one of just four teams with a losing record that is still playing.
Led by 6'2 senior Cody Hurst, who averages 12.4 ppg. and senior point guard, Clayton McClure (8.6 ppg. and 4.3 apg.), the Mohawks favor a controlled pace of play and is on its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Bethesda Christian comes in with a 16-7 mark this season and would like a more uptempo style of game as the Patriots average more than 65 ppg.
Senior Cameron Roark is the Patriots' top scorer at 15.3 ppg and has hit 47 percent (33-of-70) from 3-point range. His classmate, Mike West, rings up 15.1 ppg. Senior Justin Oglesby is hitting 57 percent (110-of-192) from the field and S. Chase Ringler has knocked down 51 percent (41-of-81).
Tickets are $6 per session or $9 for both first round games and the 8 p.m. championship game.