CLINTON, Tenn. — For the first time in eight years, Scott and Oneida will meet on the basketball court Friday evening.
As a result of Thursday's action in the opening day of play at the Anderson County Christmas Classic, which saw Scott fall to William Blount in a back-and-forth contest and Oneida hang tight with Claiborne for a half before falling 59-46, the two teams are matched against one another in the loser's bracket of the tournament.
The game was originally set for 5:30 p.m. at Norris Middle School, but tournament organizers scrambled after Scott's loss late Thursday to shuffle the schedule and move the game to the much larger Anderson County High School in anticipation of a larger-than-normal crowd. The new tip time at Anderson County High is 7:30 p.m. Friday evening.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2005, when they met in a Christmas tournament in Stearns, Ky. In that one, Scott won comfortably, pulling away in the second half for a 69-36 win at McCreary Central High School. In those days, Bill Hall coached Scott High while Oneida was coached by Kevin Windle. Hall is now the director of schools in Scott County while Windle coaches William Blount, which defeated Scott in Thursday's first day of play in Anderson County.
Unlike the 2005 matchup, which created some hard feelings between local administrators and McCreary Central, feelings that have since been resolved, this year's matchup is welcomed by coaches of both teams. Oneida coach Rusty Yaden and Scott's Jared Laverdiere told the Independent Herald prior to the start of the season that they were okay with the possibility of facing off. In fact, some see the game as a litmus test for an annual meeting between the two schools in basketball. There was an altercation after the 2005 game, involving two adults, but it was said to be unrelated to the game itself. As for the players, they met hand-in-hand for prayer on the court following Scott's win in that game.
The Highlanders enter Friday's game with a record of 8-5. The Indians are 7-2, with Claiborne snapping the team's 7-game winning streak on Thursday. Against common opponents, Scott lost to Claiborne by 18 and William Blount by two; Oneida lost to those two teams by 13 and 25, respectively. Against Wartburg, Oneida won 63-58 while Scott won 73-67 and 66-51. Against Sunbright, Scott won 72-51 while Oneida won 63-55.
Oneida will enter Friday's game short-handed. Dalton Chambers (ankle) and Jed Newport (collarbone) have not played since the season began. Chambers was expected to be in the starting lineup when the season began, while Newport was expected to provide varsity minutes. Both are expected to be cleared by the time the Indians resume regular season play in early January. Meanwhile, Oneida is still without leading scorer Cole West, who is nursing an old foot fracture, which he aggravated in the win over Wartburg last week.
Yaden said Thursday evening that it will be tough to keep West, who is averaging 28 points per game this season and is Oneida's playmaker on offense, off the court for Friday's game. But he added that West, who is still in a walking boot and is not expected to be cleared to play before early January, is not an option for the game.
"Cole would love to play but we can't risk the rest of our season and his future," Yaden said.
While the game will mean little in the grand scheme of the 2013-2014 season, it was already generating a lot of interest Thursday evening. Several players from either team were tweeting or posting Facebook status updates about the game, as were fans of either school.
"Can we get a social media chain going to tell everyone to be on their best behavior so we can get these two schools playing yearly?" one fan tweeted.
In other action Thursday, Oneida's girls team defeated Johnson County, 60-40, while Scott's Lady Highlanders fell to the Knox Ambassadors, 55-52. Both teams will be back in action Friday, as well.