Updated Sat, Feb 8, 2014 12:27 am
College basketball rivalry games always have a certain buzz to them. More fans pack the gym, more preparation is put in and typically, more is on the line. This will be especially true when the Rio Grande RedStorm (15-8, 4-7 MSC) women’s basketball team travels to Shawnee State (11-11, 4-7 MSC) on Saturday to take on the Bears.
In the history of Rio Grande women’s basketball, the RedStorm have never won a game at Shawnee State. The Rio women have also never swept Shawnee State. This only adds to what has been an ongoing rivalry.
“They will definitely see this game as a chance at revenge,” Rio Grande assistant coach Brandon Bias said. “We’ve never won there or swept them, so there will be a lot of motivation for both sides.”
In addition, both teams are battling for the upper hand in conference play. Out of the ten teams in the Mid-South Conference, the top eight will qualify for the postseason tournament.
Rio Grande currently sits in seventh place and Shawnee State is currently in eighth place. Positions in the conference, however, are still very much up for grabs. Only one win separates the ninth place team with the fifth place team. Needless to say, every game the rest of the season will be crucial.
“This conference is really tough and if there is a night you don’t bring your A game, you know you’re going to get beat,” Bias said. “It’s easier to win at home, but it’s all about winning on the road. And that’s what we will have to do against Shawnee.”
The road environment will not be the only thing making this matchup more difficult than the previous one, in which the RedStorm won 112-108. This time, Shawnee State will have its star senior guard playing. Senior Priscila Santos did not play in the two teams’ first matchup on Jan. 11. Santos is averaging 17 points and shoots just under 49 percent from the field.
“With Santos playing this time there is definitely going to be a huge difference in matchups. We haven’t seen this 1-2 punch from them yet this year,” Bias said.
Rio Grande will also have to put forth a concentrated effort in order to stop senior guard Alannah Sheets. Shawnee State’s leading scorer exploded for 45 points in the first matchup and is averaging 19.9 points per game on the season.
With only seven games remaining in the regular season, every contest needs to be circled on the schedule. This one, however, is one that the RedStorm have been looking forward to for a long time. With postseason implications and potential program history on the line, this one might be just a little bit bigger.
“We have a chance to beat our arch rival for the second time and take a positive step towards our future,” Bias said. “Our destiny is in our hands and we have to make the most of it.”