Home » Sports » Mustangs ready for Tigers

Mustangs ready for Tigers

The Friday afternoon Big South 3A play-in game, to see who was going to make the 3A State Playoffs, between Hunter Huss and East Lincoln never materialized. The reason why was simple according to Mustangs’ Coach Neil Hodges—the rulebook.
After sweeping the Huskies in regular season play, Hodges believed it was unfair for his team to have to play a game in order to gain entry into the playoffs. He felt his team had already earned it.
“It’s something that’s been on my mind since last week and the way it was set up, it just didn’t seem fair. The reason I didn’t say anything about it initially was I wanted to see how we were going to do in the tournament (Big South Tournament),” he said.
Friday morning, Hodges contacted NCHSAA Associate Executive Director Rick Strunk regarding whether or not the Mustangs would indeed have to participate in the play-in game. The association’s response?
“Under no circumstances should you have to play that game.”
Now with the ruling behind them, East Lincoln will set their focus on Fred T. Foard in the first round of the 3A State Playoffs.
The Tigers (18-7) are led by Naval Academy-signee Adam Teague. The 6’7” small forward averaged 22 points per game and twice scored 38 points. Hodges feels how well his team can defend Teague will go a long way in determining the outcome.
“They have a very good club. He’s a very good player and is the leading scorer in that league. When he goes well, they are very good, so we can’t afford for him to come out and get in the 30s. We need to try to hold him down a little bit,” he said.
Hodges has been proud of how much improvement they’ve shown over the duration of the season. For them to be successful against the Tigers, he believes several areas are key.
“We’re going to have to continue to play very good defense. We need to continue our balanced attack between the outside and inside game. Our kids have played very hard and I think they’ve shown great improvement from November until now. I think we’re beginning to learn how to play the game,” he said.
What does Hodges feel the Mustangs have learned?
“It’s very important to understand spacing, when to pick it up, when to slow it down and I think our kids are learning how to play. It’s been a good year,” he said.
The East Lincoln basketball family has been through plenty of adversity over the past couple of seasons, both on the court and off. It’s that adversity that makes the playoff berth that much more satisfying.
“They came into this year after having a very bad year last year with a lot of unfortunate things happening. I was unable to be around (due to supporting my wife), so they had two or three different coaches. Then they were chosen last coming into this year. I think they decided to pick it up and prove everybody wrong,” Hodges said.
“It’s exciting to be there, we deserve to be there. We just hope our kids understand that’s not all we’re looking for. We’re not just happy to get there. We want to see how far we can advance. We’re going to go out and play with a lot of intensity, a lot of enthusiasm and when it’s over have no regrets,” he said of the Mustangs, who have recorded the most victories of any East Lincoln squad since 1991.
The successful season has been more special for Hodges’ seniors. The seniors, led by point guard Darin Dellinger, Carlos-Marquez Sykes, Josh Davis and Wayne White helped the Mustangs go 5-1 against Lincoln Co. competition.
“Our kids were real happy to win the mystical Lincoln Co. Championship because our record against the county schools was better than any other,” he said.
While Friday’s ruling may be controversial in some eyes, Hodges offers no apologies.
“Being a member of the NCHSAA as all schools are, we are required to follow the rules and regulations set forth by that group and the rulebook is very plain.”

Directions: 321-North, then take Hwy. 10 Exit. Traveling away from Newton. At the intersection of 10/127 take a left. School will be on the right a half-mile. by John Mark Brooks

You must be logged in to post a comment Login