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Game of the Year: East vs. South Preview

With the Sunflower League Championship on the line, the 19-0 Shawnee Mission South Raiders make the short trip to East to face the 18-1 Lancers in what has been one of the most hyped League games in recent memory. Both teams are undefeated in league play and the winner of this game will become the outright champions. The bitter rivalry is sure to bring out the best in both teams and both student sections with so much on the line.

The last time the Raiders came to East the game was a 24 point blowout, but the second game at South was a double overtime thriller. Do not be surprised if tonight looks similar to the second game.

The Raiders play a starting lineup featuring four guards and one big man similar to Lawrence and Olathe South who East played earlier in the year. A few key players for South are 6’7” senior big man Josh Pedersen, 6’0” sophomore guard Dainan Swoope and 5’9” junior Devin Newsome. Pedersen is an athletic player for his size and plays a key role in the Raiders offense. Swoope is a sharpshooter from beyond the arc is capable of putting up big numbers, with multiple games scoring over 20 points this season.

Rounding out the starting lineup for South are 6’2” senior Jake Caldwell and 6’0” junior Ra’keim Abdul. Caldwell will be matched up with senior Zach Schneider if the Raiders decide to play man-to-man which could be a possible weakness with his lack of size.

“We have to get the ball below the free-throw line, if we do that then they will have a hard time guarding us,” Hair said. “You know we have LJ and Schneider, and they have Pederson, but they don’t have another guy to guard our two guys inside.”

The biggest advantage the Lancers will have will be their frontcourt size with 6’6” Schneider and 6’7” sophomore Lucas Jones. East has fed them in the paint all year and it has really paid off for Head Coach Shawn Hair.

“You know I think a better question is how South is going to adjust to guarding and stopping Lucas and I,” Schneider said when asked about how East will handle South’s quick guards. “We are by far the best frontcourt in the league. I think that is a tougher matchup.”

Senior Vance Wentz is coming off a big game against Lawrence Free State scoring 21 with 18 in the first half. He will look to keep his hot hand going.
One of the biggest keys to the game in the mind of Coach Hair is the pace.

“I think they are going to want to speed the game up and it will be our job to not turn the ball over, that is a big key for us,” Hair said. “You know we can’t turn the ball over and give them easy shots. If we make it a half court game we should be in good shape.”

The Raiders play a diamond press and a man-to-man press where they will try to cause confusion and get easy turnovers.

The Lancers have a 1-2-2 press of their own that has wreaked havoc. Senior Connor Knabe’s athleticism has been used at the point causing numerous turnovers since it was introduced in McPherson.

Another interesting thing to watch in the game will be how each team responds to the atmosphere. It will probably be the loudest game either team has played this year with two great fan bases.

With the Sunflower League Title on the line both teams will bring out all the stops to win. Both teams have had historic seasons thus far and look to add a league title to their trophy case.

Make sure to tune into the girls game at 5 p.m. here. Then tune in to the boys’ game directly after for the live coverage of the game, the first ever SME Gameday Show, the senior night ceremony, and much much more.

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