published Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Best of Preps basketball: Owls-Lions back on tap

PLAYERS TO WATCH

• Nick Ross, Red Bank: The Lions’ senior guard is equally adept on the outside where he can get hot from 3-point range and in the paint, where he is a solid post scorer against smaller guards. Ross is averaging over 20 points per game.

• Travis Core, Dade County: A lights-out shooter, Core is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists a game. The 6-foot-2 point guard has great vision and the ability to get into the lane whenever he wants.

• Jervon Johnson, Ooltewah: A dangerous shooter last year, the 6-3 junior forward has added the ability to slash to the basket and finish inside. He has teamed with Wesley Richey to form a dynamite 1-2 punch for the 9-0 Owls.

The nightcap of the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament Monday will reunite familiar enemies with similar styles. Ooltewah faces Red Bank in that game, set for 8:30 at Arts & Sciences.

Reclassification before the 2009-10 season put the former district rivals in different classes: Ooltewah stayed in AAA, while the Lions dropped to AA. The teams haven’t met since then.

“I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for both teams,” Ooltewah coach Jesse Nayadley said. “When we were in the same district, they were probably our rival. We had the best crowds of the year, and now we’ve got a lot of kids that were there when we did.

“I know the kids are talking about it. They probably are thinking about it too much.”

Nayadley wasn’t pleased with his Owls’ play in a 77-54 victory Friday night against White County. Still, they are off to one of their best starts with a 9-0 record and have compiled that with a lot of athletes — and a lot of scorers, led by Jervon Johnson and Wesley Richey. Each of the two averages around 20 points per game.

“We run a fairly open offense, and everybody must be able to put the ball on the floor and shoot the ball,” Nayadley said. “There were some moments where being better athletes have won games for us, but you can’t do that against good teams.”

Red Bank, meanwhile, has been led — and sometimes carried — by the talented duo of Nick Ross and Kelvin Clay. The Lions are 6-2 after losing the past two days in a tournament in Paris, Tenn.

Lions coach John Cherne said Monday’s game has the makings of a “backyard brawl.”

“It’s another game on the schedule,” Cherne said. “It should be good and exciting. If you can’t get fired up for a game like this over the break, I don’t know what would.”

Follow Gene Henley on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports

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