(T-G Photo by Chris Siers)
Add in the fact you've got two rivals playing each other in an electric atmosphere, and the on-court product is likely to be one of the best games fans will see all year.
That's exactly what the Cascade and Community faithful were treated to on Friday night in Wartrace.
With the fans buzzing, the game unfolded and proved to be one for the books in this stoic rivalry with the Cascade Champions (11-5, 6-2 9-A) narrowly pulling away from the Vikings (6-10, 1-7 9-A) for the 61-53 win.
"It was a classic Cascade-Community dogfight to the end. I was very proud of the way our kids came out of the gates ready to play," said Community coach Robbie Davis.
And in the first half, it was the Vikings setting the tone and forcing the pace of the game for essentially all of the first two quarters.
The first quarter was full-on a shootout, with both teams hitting shots and making huge plays.
Community raced out to a 21-17 lead after one quarter of play thanks to big 3's from Taylor Paschal, Logan Pierce, and Zeke Grissom.
Pierce also lent his efforts to the inside game as well, along with teammate Blake Fanning.
"Our kids answered the bell early and we attacked the glass and shot very well and got the game going in our pace," Davis said.
But Cascade wasn't without it's heroes, either.
Much like the Vikings, the Champs turned to the 3-point game to keep within striking distance. Sam Gardner, Alex Hatchett, and Will Holt each drilled triples to power the 17-point quarter for Cascade.
The teams traded blows in the second quarter with the Vikings eventually going on a big run and leading 33-25 with just over 3:30 to play in the first half.
Following a technical foul called on Cascade during a Viking layup attempt, the Purple and Gold cashed in on 3-of-4 tries at the line and held a 36-27 lead with just over a minute to go.
Cascade trimmed that lead to just four points with a 3-footer from Jesse Barnes and a huge 3-pointer courtesy of Hatchett with just five seconds left.
"They played great in the first half and at halftime I told the guys to keep doing what we're doing and we'll be okay," said Cascade coach Mike Edmondson.
"In the second half, coach Edmondson did a great job of getting the game slowed down and his guys made some good shots," Davis said.
Cascade continued to work the boards and saw a pair of huge triples fall from Bryce Clinton, which Edmondson says was instrumental in the comeback.
Both teams continued to trade blows with the Champs getting a couple of free throws from Jake Pimental that gave Cascade the lead with about 30 seconds left in the third.
With just a 44-43 Champion lead heading into the final quarter, fans were delighted to much of the same as the previous three quarters--fast paced offense and big plays on both ends of the floor.
Cascade did begin to pull away with about 1:30 left in the game, though not by any comfortable margin.
Community had a chance to bring the game within three points after Grissom was fouled beyond the arc and sent to the line to shoot three.
Despite not making the 3-point play, he did knock down a pair of free throws, trimming the score to 57-53 with just under 50 seconds left.
With no choice but to foul to stop the clock, the Champs were able to work their finesse at the line and hit 4-of-5 attempts in the final minute to conclude the victory.
"Our guys are really poised and they don't panic. I thought we did a great job in the third quarter getting the ball back inside," Edmondson said.
Hatchett led the way for Cascade, knocking down a game-high 15 points, including four from range.
"Alex is getting better inside all the time. We've always known he could hit the three, but now we've seen where he can hit the little jump shots too. He's like a guard playing a post. We're deep enough that we can go into the bench and I expect them to do as well as the others," Edmondson said.
In addition to hitting six treys, the Champs cashed in on 11-of-12 attempts at the line for 92 percent.
"We decided to take that risk and we knew they had to start fouling. It's not always been our strength, though." Edmondson said.
For the Vikings, Pierce and Grissom led the way with 10 points, while Fanning and Paschal added nine and eight, respectively.
Cascade will step back on its home court on Monday evening with a non-district game against Cannon County before hosting Huntland on Tuesday evening.
With the focus on the district schedule, Edmondson expects to change some things up and give the Lions a different look on Monday evening.
"We're going to have to do things a little different because we have to get ready for Huntland," Edmondson said.
Community on the other hand faced off against the Culleoka Warriors on Saturday evening, however results were unavailable at press time.
The Vikes will step back into district play on Tuesday as the MTCS Cougars pay a visit to Unionville.
Community 21 15 7 10 -- 53
Cascade 17 15 12 17 -- 61
Community: Logan Pierce 10, Zeke Grissom 10, Blake Fanning 9, Taylor Paschal 8, Tanner Simmons 8, Luke Primm 7, Darian Pride 1.
Cascade: Alex Hatchett 15, Jake Pimental 8, Blake Foyd 8, James Lattimore 8, Will Holt 7, Jesse Barnes 6, Bryce Clinton 6, Sam Gardner 3.
3-Point goals: Cascade (8): Hatchett 4, Clinton 2, Gardner, Holt; Community (5): Pashcal 2, Pierce, Grissom, Primm.
Halftime score: Community 36, Cascade 32.