Although Windsor has rolled over its local opponents this season, the Montgomery Vikings think Friday night may be the perfect opportunity to hand the Jaguars a loss.
Windsor, seeded No. 1 in the NCS boys basketball playoffs, has been off for a week with a bye. Montgomery has been playing its best ball. And after two losses to Windsor this year, the Vikings may have learned enough to best the Jaguars.
The No. 8 Vikings (16-11 overall, 9-5 in the NBL) travel to Windsor for Friday's 7 p.m. second-round game. The winner advances to the NCS semifinals.
“Any time you try to beat a team for the third time, especially Montgomery, they’re going to have a book on you,” said Windsor coach Travis Taylor. “It’s human nature in sports. You beat a team twice, and the team that lost is going to have motivation.”
NBL champion Windsor (25-3 overall, 14-0 in league) has history on its side.
The Jaguars downed Montgomery handily, 49-30, in January, when the Vikings put up a poor shooting night, particularly from distance.
But on Feb. 8 in the Vikings’ gym, Montgomery pushed it to the limit, coming back from a six-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to trail by three with 30 seconds left. With 15 seconds left, Montgomery’s Joel Seitz tied the game with a layup.
But in the final seconds, Windsor’s Parker Canady grabbed an offensive rebound and canned a shot at the buzzer to secure the Jaguars’ 13th consecutive victory and a 40-38 win.
“I don’t think we did much different overall in strategy between the first and second games,” Montgomery coach Zac Tiedeman said. “Windsor is tough. They are very versatile. They’re always a good defensive team. There’s no secret there. Obviously they’ve won (17) straight games.”
But the Vikings are playing their best ball of the season, improving during the second half of NBL play, their first-year coach said.
“A few of our losses have been down to the wire, so they’ve been good games,” he said. “We’ve been a little more consistent, had more contribution across the line from all our players.”
For Montgomery to succeed, it will have to shut down the Jags’ top players, Gabe Knight and Canady.
“They have one of the best — if not the best — players in the area with Gabe Knight,” Tiedeman said. “And a couple others that are 6-2, 6-3, that can do multiple things on the court — pass, shoot, defend.”
Taylor knows his team will have to shut down Montgomery’s three-point shooting opportunities and try to neutralize 6-foot-3 forward Joel Seitz.
“They played us tough both times,” the Windsor coach said. “They share the ball well. They don’t beat themselves.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t give them chance to shoot threes because they have multiple shooters. Threes for them are like layups for most teams.”
The Jaguars are “chomping at the bit” to play, Taylor said, after having a first-round bye and not playing for a full week.
“You’re never going to turn down a bye,” he said, “but at the same time, I wouldn’t have minded playing.
“You can throw the seeds out the window. The seeds at this point are just little numbers next to your name. You have two good teams, two good programs.”