Sweet Sixteen: Cardinals an easy team to root for
George Rogers Clark coach Scott Humphrey and the Cardinals will take on Owensboro Apollo in the opening round of the Sweet 16 at 8 tonight at Rupp¿Arena in Lexington. (James Mannemail@example.com)
“This is a very easy team to root for,” Clark coach Scott Humphrey said earlier this week. “The student-body has been with us all along, but the older fans and the adult crowd has just kind of embraced this bunch and it just seems like we’re adding a few new faces every game we play. They (the fans) are enjoying it and they’re excited for the team. They’re an easy bunch to root for because they do it the right way on and off the court.”
The Eagles (17-14) were a surprise winner in the 3rd Region after defeating Muhlenberg County in the regional finals to earn a berth in the prestigious tournament.
“At the beginning of the year, people thought it would be them, Ohio¿County or Muhlenberg County (who would win the region,” Humphrey said. “They had a lot of football players, got off to a slow start and had some injuries and from the tapes that we’ve seen, they’ve played a little different from December until March. They look totally different now than they did earlier in the season.”
Humphrey said a key for his team will be how it competes on the defensive end of the court and rebounds the ball.
“Everything starts and ends with us on the defensive end of the floor,” the Clark coach said. “We need to make sure we pressure their guards. They’re so big and rebounding concerns me. That (is going to be our) focus going into the game.”
Clark also will have to get used to the longer length of the college floor.
“It’s so much longer, you’ll be getting an outlet pass from someone and you think you’re underneath the basket and you’re at the three-point line,” Clark senior Adam Fatkin said. “It’s completely different.”
Close to home
Humphrey has elected to commute his team from Winchester to Rupp¿Arena instead of staying in Lexington this week. The routine was the same during Clark’s two previous appearances in 2007 and last season. The team’s draw in the tournament also has been beneficial.
“We’ve debated which way to approach it and we’ve spoke to a lot of coaches who have been to the state tournament who live in the central Kentucky area. They all said it’s an advantage to sleep in your own bed.”
Clark compiled a 3-1 record against three teams in the 16-team field. Clark played Rowan County, Southwestern and North Laurel during the regular season and all three teams will join the Cards in the upper bracket, which features Louisville Trinity, one of the favorites to win the four-day event.
Clark and Rowan County split two games, with the Cards edging the Vikings 50-48 in the finals of the Ashland Invitational. Rowan defeated Clark 62-58 on Jan. 24. The Cards knocked off Southwestern 52-46 to win the Whitaker Bank Fort Herrod Classic on Dec. 23 and beat North Laurel 51-47 on Jan. 27 in London.