Spartans, Mavs face off for first
Sun Valley High boys basketball coach Keith Mason feels his team is "starting to peak at the right time."
The Spartans have won three straight and four of their last five to improve to 9-6 on the season.
More importantly, Sun Valley is 2-0 in the Southern Carolina Conference and will play at Marvin Ridge (8-6, 2-0 SCC) with sole possession of first place on the line tonight.
"I think every game is important, especially when you only have six teams in the conference," said Mason. "If you get in the driver's seat, that's huge because there's not a lot of time to catch up if you get behind."
Mason, a sixth-year coach who picked up his 100th victory at Sun Valley last Friday, has seen his team go through a roller coaster season.
The Spartans started out 1-3 before winning three straight. They then lost two out of three before the Christmas break, which is when the season began to turn in the right direction.
Senior forward Kendall Ratliff leads the Spartans in scoring with an average of 14.9 points per game. Isaiah Blanchett, also a senior forward, is posting a team-high 7.1 rebounds per contest while senior guard Kevin Saxton is averaging a Union County-best 5.3 assists per game.
"It's been a maturation process," said Mason. "Now that this group has been together for a while, we've been able to mesh and learn how each other plays. We had some guys that were in roles they weren't used to, so it's just been a matter of getting games under their belts."
Marvin Ridge has won four of its last six contests.
The Mavericks have four players averaging more than nine points, including senior wing Taylor Neal (16.4 ppg), junior forward John Emezie (16.4 ppg), senior point guard Logan Jackson (12.8 ppg) and senior forward David Kelcy (9.4 ppg).
"Marvin Ridge is talented," said Mason. "They return three really good players. Logan does a good job of being the leader of the team. Neal's a threat to hit the three and go to the basket and then Emezie has really improved his game from last year. We have to stop those three guys No. 1, but they have good roles players, too."