TRENTON, Ga. -- Basketball practice this week at Dade County High School hasn't been very exciting.
As the Wolverines prepare for their GHSA Class AA first-round basketball playoff game at Manchester (Ga.) High, the gym isn't a place for fancy one-on-one drills or intricate fastbreak practice. "Boxing out" and "crash the boards" are the two catch phrases coach Glen Hicks has barked out all week as his team readies for a team that lives by second-chance points.
"The biggest key is we have to keep from getting embarrassed on the boards," Hicks said. "They're a very, very good rebounding team on both ends. They're not very big. The biggest guy on their roster is listed at 6-foot-3, but he plays a lot bigger than that."
Very seldom, if ever, have Hicks' Dade teams had a size advantage over any playoff foe, but they will in Saturday's 7 p.m. game by a good margin. While the 19-8 Blue Devils have two 6-3 players and 10 players listed under 5-10, the 24-4 Wolverines have four 6-4 or taller, led by 6-9 senior center Andrew Reid.
Despite the size, though, Dade has been outrebounded more often than Hicks would like, though the team's fastbreak style often comes at the sacrifice of rebounding as players take off downcourt. Securing the defensive rebound will be crucial, according to Reid.
"We've been working hard on our rebounding drills," he said. "We have to block out.They're not very big, so our size will definitely help us, but they're a very good rebounding team for their size. They go to the glass very hard offensively, so we have to keep them off the board. If we don't do that, we'll be in trouble."
The Wolverines didn't expect to be traveling in the opening round, but a Region 7-AA tournament semifinal loss to Rockmart -- a two-loss team that was upset in its subregion tournament -- sent them packing. One bright spot to being the third seed out of 7-AA is that Dade wouldn't face either top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian or South Atlanta until the quarterfinals.
On the other hand, third-ranked East Hall or traditionally strong Decatur could loom in the second round if the Wolverines win Saturday. Hicks, for one, isn't about to look ahead.
"We feel like we can win on the road," he said. "I hope our kids are hungry. If they're not we don't deserve to get past the first round. Really, there's not a whole lot of difference in the four teams in our bracket. I haven't seen Decatur, but I have seen East Hall and I know they're tough. I hope I'm worrying about them Saturday when we get back. I can't afford to right now."
Hicks knows his team isn't the most talented among the 32 squads remaining, but he's seen far less talented teams make deep playoff runs.
"You don't have to be the best team in the state," he said. "You just have to be better for 48 minutes than the team you're playing that night."
Dade is one of three northwest Georgia boys teams entering the postseason. Region 7-AAA champion Murray County (24-2) hosts Washington (17-9) Saturday at 6, and fourth-seeded Heritage (18-8) plays at top-ranked Columbia (25-3) tonight at 7.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...