Wapahani boys basketball coach Matt Luce sees some similarities between his team and Union. Both teams have star players, he said, but they also have role players who fulfill their assignments and help their teams be successful.
The two teams will meet Saturday at Union in a key game in the Mid-Eastern Conference race. Wapahani (13-3) is 5-0 in MEC play and will take on Cowan tonight at Wapahani before its game with Union. The Rockets (13-2) are also 5-0 in MEC play. They are idle tonight.
“They’re very quick, they handle the ball very well, mostly in their three guards,” Luce said of Union. “I just think they’re a great team.”
The Rockets have been on the upswing since Jeff Holloway took over as coach for the 2008-09 season. Last season’s Union team went 16-7 and advanced to regionals, winning the second sectional title in school history and the first in 42 years.
Holloway said it’s been decades since Union won a conference title, and this year’s team figured a game with Wapahani would be a key step in ending that drought. Each MEC team plays an eight-game conference schedule, so the winner of Saturday’s game will likely be in a prime position to take the title.
“It’s a game that they’ve been looking forward to, they know it’s a really good team we’re getting ready to play,” Holloway said. “And a lot of them, it’s a little history, they know each other. So it’s going to be big. But it’s something they’re looking forward to, they’ve been talking about it a lot.”‘
The Rockets’ coach said he’s happy to havetonight off to allow his team to focus on the matchup with the Raiders. Union last played on Jan. 26, winning at Blue River. The Rockets are on a three-game winning streak.
“It really does help us to be able to just focus on them,” Holloway said. “Because when you play Friday, you’re preparing to play Friday. You can’t skip Friday and prepare to play Saturday. So, it’s helped us that we can just focus on them and prepare only for Wapahani.”
Luce doesn’t haven’t the same luxury, with his team set to play Cowan (5-9, 2-2 MEC) tonight in another conference game. His Raiders are on a seven-game winning streak, their last loss on Jan. 4 at New Castle.
“We’re excited to play at home again,” Luce said. “We’ve had two in a row at home and (today) is another chance to play in front of our home crowd. So, it’s a big game for us. And also it’s a county rival. … We definitely know that Union has a great team and have a lot of respect for them. We just want to make sure we’re still undefeated in the conference going into Saturday night.”