LaGrange and Maryville have a long-standing rivalry dating back to the days of the Great South Athletic Conference, and both teams moved to the USA South beginning with the start of the 2012-13 school year.
In the GSAC championship game last year, Maryville won in a squeaker 73-71.
LaGrange split the regular-season games last season with the Scots.
LaGrange coach Kendal Wallace has more than a passing interest in the game.
Wallace was a player at Maryville while earning his degree there and then served six seasons as an asssitant coach under coach Randy Lambert, who is in his 33rd year at the helm.
Maryville comes into the game with a season record of 4-3 and has already played a pair of games in the USA South Conference.
Regardless of the year or circumstances, it seems Maryville is a team always there for LaGrange to contend with.
Wallace said he hopes that his 5-1 Panthers can be 6-1 after Saturday and the student can show the teacher what he’s learned since taking over as head coach of the LaGrange program a year ago.
“I know a little bit about them and what they’ll be doing,” Wallace said of Maryville. “Of course coach Lambert is an excellent coach. He gets his kids prepared, so I’m sure he’ll throw a couple of twists and surprises in there for us, but we’re working hard right now in practice to get prepared for Saturday, that’s for sure.”
Maryville has won its past two games over Berry and North Carolina-Wesleyan before dropping three consecutive games against Oglethorpe, Emory and Christopher Newport.
Wallace indicated the Scots’ shooting game had been suspect for a while, but believes they have improved that in time for the trip to Troup County.
LaGrange has tried a number of starting combinations during the first month of the season and Wallace confirmed that is still ongoing with the exception of Denzel Robinson, Patrick Dugger and Marcus Vaughn, who are fixtures in the starting lineup.
“We’re definitely going to shake some things up on Saturday,” Wallace said of the lineup. “We’ll see some new faces and we’ll see some old faces.”
Kyron Anderson leads the Panthers in scoring averaging 16 points per game followed by Vaughn at 13 points a game.
Both are the only players averaging in double figures.
“They’re a very good, sound offensive team,” Wallace said. “They haven’t necessarily shot the ball well in the first three or four games that they’ve played, but they’ve kind of turned it on. The most two recent games they’ve won both of them so that’s gives them a little bit of momentum.”
LaGrange will be looking to stop Maryville’s lone senior in 6-foot-2 guard Wes Lambert, the coach’s son who is averaging nine points a game and directs the team’s offense from the point.
Also returning from last year’s team is a pair of sophomores in Oscar Butler and Christian Ford who saw significant minutes in 2011-12.
The tallest player Maryville has is 6-8 junior Joey Bodewig.
Wallace expects a well-orchestrated effort from Maryville, but admits scouting them is a difficult task.
“Coach Lambert I know is going to play a tough man-to-man defense,” Wallace noted. “He’s rarely has any set plays. He runs a very similar offense to us. I haven’t been able to scout his plays yet and he does that on purpose. He’s a real smart guy.”
Wallace also said his team’s ability to hang tough in the paint will be a key to the game.
“We’ll have to contest with their rebounding,” Wallace said. “If we don’t rebound the ball well, I don’t know if we can win the game.”
Maryville has made a couple of additions from this season, but overall, Wallace believes it’s a very similar team the Panthers played last year.
The Panthers are also similar to last year’s team, although Wallace believes this season’s team is better.
“Our basic team is the same team we played with in the championship last year minus two guards,” Wallace said. “I think I’ve replaced those guys with better talent and better potential so I feel strongly and confident going into Saturday with my team.”
After Saturday’s game, LaGrange will be off until Dec. 29 when it travesl to Florida to play in the Tampa Bay Shootout.