Good seats are going to be hard to come by Thursday night.
Who are we kidding?
Any seat is going to be hard to come by.
The Erwin boys (11-5, 4-0) lay claim to the longest winning streak in Mountain Athletic Conference basketball (nine games), while North Buncombe (13-1, 3-0) has the best overall record of any MAC boys team.
First place in the MAC 3-A division will be up for grabs Thursday when the two rivals tangle in the Black Hawks’ gym.
And if the past is any indication, especially last season, the crowd size will be substantial enough to warrant a fire marshal’s attention.
North Buncombe does not have a junior-varsity girls team, which means the JV boys will play at 4:30 p.m., followed by the varsity girls. Barring overtime in those games, the varsity boys matchup should tip-off at about 7:30.
“Our kids are chomping at the bit to get this game going,” Black Hawks coach Joey Bryson said.
“We’ve had a great week of practice and feel like we’ve got a good gameplan. Our players remember the environment from last year and we’re expecting the same (Thursday). That’s what high school basketball is all about.”
Bryson replaced David Rhoney as North Buncombe’s coach in 2011 and was formerly one of his assistants.
Rhoney won 204 games with the Black Hawks and has since gone 59-31 at Erwin. The Warriors are the defending MAC 3-A champions after last winter’s 23-1 season.
As for North Buncombe, the Black Hawks won their first dozen games for one of their best-ever starts. And Rhoney has come away impressed by what he’s seen of his former team.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a group play harder than North Buncombe does. I don’t know that you physically can,” Rhoney said.
“It doesn’t take long to figure out why they are 13-1. They not only work hard, but they’re great basketball players, too. It really all starts with (senior Daniel) Burchette. He sets the tone and they all fall in behind.”
Burchette has not yet decided where he will play college basketball, but is impressing those potential suitors with 21.4 points per game, followed by Brennan Hockaday (14.6 ppg.), Blake Mathews (11.6 ppg.) and David Elkins (9.3).
Hockaday, who is only a junior, is the team’s top rebounder at a clip of 7.9 a game. Mathews (6.0 rpg.) is second and Burchette (5.7 rpg.) is third.
Kevin Church gives out 3.4 assists per game, while other leaders and David Elkins (2.4 apg.), Burchette (2.4 apg.). Finally in the steals department, Burchette (3.5 spg.) and Church (2.0 spg.) are the main standouts.
Rhoney didn’t hesitate to call Erwin’s 108-90 win over visiting David Crockett (Tenn.) on Saturday “our best game of the year.”
And with good reason.
The Warriors haven’t lost since last month at David Crockett (78-75 on Dec. 13).
Alic Wynn was the biggest factor Saturday with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Brennan Howard contributed 25 points, while Malik Moore (17 points, six rebounds), Dawson Parker (12 points) and C.J. Thompson (11) also attained double figures in the first 100-point game of the season for Erwin.
Moore was the 2014 Citizen-Times All-WNC Player of the Year and like Burchette is undecided on his future at the next level. The senior averages 17.6 points per game, while Howard (15.6 ppg.) and Wynn (14.9 ppg.).
Wynn (9.2) and Moore (9.0) also grab more than nine rebounds a night. While those two seniors hold down the frontcourt, junior Colby Maltry has dished out 5.4 assists per game. Moore has been credited with 3.8 a night to go along with his team lead for steals (2.1).
Erwin beat North Buncombe twice last season, 96-78 and 101-73. A potential third game never happened because the MAC 3-A tournament was cancelled.
Thursday’s game was originally set for Tuesday, but postponed by exams for Buncombe County Schools.
“These are the kind of games that you enjoy, and the kind of games that you have to earn the right to play in,” Rhoney said.
“And you earn that right by what you done up to this point. Our kids certainly know the importance and we’ve told them that you have embrace the atmosphere.”