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Like the NHL’s winter classic or the NFL’s gaudy Super Bowl halftime show, it’s an annual tradition in sports; the passing of the torch from high school football season to basketball.
That yearly occurrence takes place tonight in Empire as the Bulldogs host Geronimo in the area’s first high school basketball game of the season. The girls tip-off at 6:30 p.m., directly followed by the boys.
“The guys are ready to go. They are ready to get out there,” Empire boys’ coach Ryan Green said about starting the season. “I think they are tired of playing each other.”
Both the Empire boys’ and girls’ squads are looking to go a step further after up and down 2011-2012 campaigns.
The Lady Bulldogs especially have high hopes coming into the year with a new-look squad and new-look system.
“We’ve got a lot of size. I’ve got a six-footer (Ashley Atkinson) and I’ve got girls that are 5-11 (Lakota Elliott), 5-10 (Alyssa George) and 5-8 Jessica Carney),” said Empire girls’ coach Jason Allensworth. “We are going to try to work the inside out game this season, and when the defense collapses, that will open things up on the perimeter.”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are still trying to figure things out. They only lost two starters from last year, but they have only had four practices with the entire squad leading into tonight’s game, with football players just rejoining the team last week.
Green said that his squad has lost size this year — the Bulldogs have a five-guard set they can go to — but has gained depth.
“There are more players in our rotation,” Green said. “We have nine or 10, whereas last year we were maybe six or seven deep.”
Both coaches described their Geronimo opponent as rebuilding programs that are headed in the right direction. And both coaches would like nothing more than to start the season out with a win.
“People across the state look at the scores, especially the first few weeks, and they start to make an opinion,” Allensworth said. “You want to have a good showing so other teams in Class 2A start to form a good opinion about you.”