Throw records and past results out the window tonight when Glynn Academy travels to Brunswick High for a 6 p.m. tip-off in the girls game.
The Brunswick girls enter the contest 6-7 overall, yet 1-0 in Region 2-6A. It’s once they enter the Pirates feel they’re at their best.
“It’s a region game, that’s the first thing, and I’ve been telling my team, granted we’re playing Glynn Academy, but it’s more so because it’s a region game,” said girls head coach Maria Mangram. “Region games matter more than anything else, and that’s kind of what I’ve instilled in them.
“And it’s for different reasons this year, we’ve had a lot of naysayers and a lot of people looking at our record, but on the flip side of that, I feel like we’ve played some pretty tough teams, and I feel like the region games matter more than anything.”
Brunswick is 12-4 against the Glynn Academy girls since the 2012-13 season, though it’ll be a small upset if it can score another victory in the first meeting between the programs this season.
The Red Terrors’ girls are 2-0 in the region and 14-2 overall, including 7-0 on the road.
“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Mangram said. “Take nothing from Glynn, their record speaks for itself. I guess we are going in this year as the underdog, so for us, it’s kind of like trying to prove a point, to let everybody know we’re just as good. Our record might not show it, but we are just as good.”
Over a holiday break that saw the team go 2-1 at the Vereen Rehab Christmas Shootout at Norman Park, the Pirate girls have began to hit their stride as players have grown up and matured into their roles on the team.
Mangram will know more about her players after competing against a Red Terror team that does most of its damage in the paint. Junior bigs Zoesha Smith and La’trinty Best averaging more than 31 points and 19 rebounds between them.
Brunswick hopes to use its depth to combat Glynn Academy’s size inside.
Of course, when the in-town rivals meet, outside factors, and how the teams respond to them, can also influence the outcome of the game.
“Because it is Glynn Academy, and we are from the same city, and it is a rivalry game, sometimes when Brunswick and Glynn plays, it’s not always the best team that wins,” Mangram said. “It’s the team that really wants it the most, and the team that plays the hardest. It’ll be a different atmosphere.”
The Pirates have had discussions about the expected crowd, and Mangram has told the team to expect not to be able to hear her during the game. And while they’ve practiced different scenarios, little can prepare a player other than experience.
“As a coach, I can them and talk about it until I’m blue in the face, but if they have never experienced it, it’s kind of like you’ve got to get out and let the jitters get out of you first,” Mangram said.
The Brunswick boys will also need to overcome any big-game nerves, though they have some recent experience with playing in front of large crowds over Christmas break at tournaments in Fort Meyers, Fla., and Tifton.
The Pirates (8-5, 1-0) went 1-4 against strong opponents from around the country, dropping their games by an average of just 10 points per contest — all without Kelan Walker, who is recovering from a hand injury.
Losing four games in a nine-day span was tough for boys head coach Chris Turner and his players, but he hopes it will make the team better in the long run.
It should be better in the short run, as well, just by virtue of getting back home to Brunswick Square Garden, where the team is 5-0 this season, though Turner expects a tougher task against Glynn Academy (9-5, 1-1).
“I don’t know how much home-field advantage it is in these kind of games because there’s so many people that come out from both sides,” Turner said. “But I will tell you this, I’m glad we’re not playing in Florida or Tift County. I’ll be glad to get a chance to play at home.”
The Brunswick boys are 11-2 against Glynn dating back to 2012-13 season, including 6-0 at home.
“We’ve had some very good teams and we’ve been able to get those kids to buy into what we’re trying to do and to give a great effort it takes to win those big games,” Turner said. “I don’t know how we’ve got that good a record, and I did not know I actually did. It was something good to here, actually. But Glynn is always tough. Every game I’ve ever played against Glynn, whether its home or away, has always been a tough game.”