Tonight's Class 3-A, Region III, bi-district game between Bullard and Rusk matches one team (Bullard) that is practically a fixture in post-season play against another, Rusk, that is making its first playoff appearance in eight years.
Throw history out the window once tipoff, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Vivian and Bob Smith Events Center at Lon Morris College, takes place however as these two squads, who will become district rivals beginning this fall, begin their quest for a state championship.
Rusk, led by Tracy Kincade, is 26-9 and is the third-place representative from District 18-3A.
The senior-laden Eagles started the season on fire, cracking the top 20 of the TBCA weekly poll early on, before experiencing a mid-season swoon of sorts.
The Eagles recovered down the stretch and finished the regular season on a high note.
Mike Katon is the Rusk spark-plug, both offensively and defensively, but the Eagles are far from being a one-man show.
John David Beard is the team's 3-point guru, while Taj Cleaver provides muscle on the boards.
Other Eagles to watch include, Kalon Skinner and Demarrio Richards.
Rusk has plenty of speed and skilled ball handlers, but needs to have the long ball working to have their best chance at victory.
Bullard, under the direction of first-year head coach, Robert Sampson, will be looking to make amends for last year's bi-district loss (62-48) to Center.
Since the Panthers' regional final appearance four-years ago, Bullard has not made it past the area round, and with the experience factor - Bullard has 10 seniors on the roster - this will probably be the Panthers' best shot at a state title in the foreseeable future.
The Panthers (23-10) are the District 17-3A runner-up and are led in scoring by Josiah Rosebury (14.6 points per game), Lance Anding (14 ppg) and Daniel Howard (9.7 ppg).
Marquez Franklin is the Panthers' top rebounder, averaging just over seven caroms a night.
Bullard will enter the game having won 11 of their last 13 games.
The Winner between the Eagles and Panthers will advance to play Fairfield in area round play later this week.