Shining Mountain boys basketball coach Enoch Miller wants it to be known that this will not be a revenge game for his Lions. It simply will be an opportunity for Shining Mountain to continue its stellar season with a possible berth in the Class 1A Final Four.
Still, if the idea of a little payback helps get the Lions going for their early wake-up call on Thursday, Miller certainly isn’t going to complain.
Shining Mountain enters the 1A state tournament as the bracket’s top seed. For that distinction the Lions have been rewarded with the early game on Thursday at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center, where Shining Mountain will take on eighth-seeded Norwood at 8:45 a.m.
That would be the same Norwood team that ended Shining Mountain’s season a year ago with an upset victory in the Region 1 tournament.
“It’s an opportunity to go to the state semifinals. That’s all I’m looking at,” Miller said. “I think that might give the kids added incentive. But in the end it’s going to come down to realizing that we have to work hard and play well and execute, no matter who we’re playing.”
Slowing Norwood guard Morgan Rummel, who averages just more than 20 points a game, will perhaps be the biggest key for the Lions. Miller believes his club is far more prepared for that sort of defensive challenge this season than when they met the Mavericks in the postseason a year ago.
The Lions have surrendered 40 points only once in their past nine games. Overall, Shining Mountain is allowing only 35.4 points a game.
“We’re much better defensively this year,” Miller said. “We put a huge emphasis on that all through the offseason. I also think we’re more deliberate in what we’re trying to do offensively. (Rummel) is very good. Very smart. Has deep range on his shot. He’s going to be a handful.
“I compare Norwood to a football team that runs the ball well. They’re good at time of possession, and then they try to bait teams into taking quick shots. We’ll have to execute and stay within our game plan.”
While the early tipoff will present a challenge, the Lions already have been preparing for that hurdle. Shining Mountain endured an early tip during its regional win against Otis last week, and a number of Lions players have been getting up at 6:45 a.m. to shoot jumpers and grow acclimated to the early hours.
“We’ve just been trying to push through at practice,” Shining Mountain senior Colin Cantwell said. “We’ve been waking up early every day this week to get used to it.”
The winner will face either fourth-seeded Caliche or fifth-seeded Granada in the semifinals on Friday. The 1A state title game is slated for Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
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