A one-point loss on Nov. 16 in a TSSAA Hall of Fame contest probably didn't seem like it would have a great deal of postseason relevance.
Yet here Hampton (28-5) and Knoxville Grace Christian (21-8) stand for a Class A sectional basketball contest. Game time is scheduled for 7 o'clock at White-Van Huss Gym.
Also in a Class A sectional game, South Greene travels to take on Meigs County.
One difference from Hampton's 67-66 loss is the location. That contest was played in Knoxville.
Another difference is the lineups.
“They've added football players and we've added football players,” said Hampton head coach Ned Smith. “I'm sure they've gotten a lot better since then, and we've improved also.”
One of the biggest challenges for the Bulldogs will be dealing with the length of Grace.
“They've got a lot of lanky players,” said Smith. “They play really good defense. They alter shots, and contest almost every shot. They have good traps, and they really run the floor, and they're athletic.”
Leading the way for the Rams are Luke Shepherd and Andrew Byram. Shepherd is an inside-outside threat.
And Grace can go to the bench.
“They are really deep,” said Smith. “Ten to 12 deep.”
Hampton will lean on point guard Cody McClain to keep things in order.
“We've got to handle their pressure,” said Smith. “We have to take good shots. We can't come down and sling it up.”
One thing in Hampton's favor is experience. Smith has been in this situation many times, closing in on double-digit sectional games for his coaching career. He also led Cloudland to multiple state-tournament trips as well as helping Hampton get there.
Also, his players are experienced and have played in tough games.
“I think it makes a big difference,” said Smith. “We've been in good games with Unicoi, Johnson County and Gate City (Va.). We've played teams like Elizabethton. The kids are prepared and ready.
“I think the biggest thing is for us to keep our composure for 32 minutes. You can't let one thing affect you through the whole game. You've got to do what you do, and you've got to enjoy it.”
Hampton is led by Stanley Valentine, who averages 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Cheyenne Camillo chips in with 13 points per game while McClain averages eight points and nine assists.
“He's a good leader,” said Smith. “He does what he needs to do to win.”