There's never an easy night when it comes to Region XIV men's basketball.
Tonight could be even more difficult than most for the Jacksonville Jaguars as head coach Jody Bailey's gang are scheduled to make the short trip over to Kilgore to take on the undefeated (10-0, 1-0 Region XIV) Rangers, who are coached by Brian Hoberecht.
The JC men are 7-3 overall (0-1 Region XIV) and with three league outings left on the pre-Christmas portion of the docket, the Jags will be looking for some league redemption in the next couple of weeks to avoid being mired in an unappealing rut heading into the second semester.
While Bailey would not say his team was in a must win situation tonight, he did say that it was his expectation that his team perform at a high level.
“Every (conference) game is so big,” he said. “Life on the road, especially the Wednesday night games, is special and we have to go over to Kilgore and make sure that we play in a special way.
”We can't go over there and play average basketball. Playing average basketball in this league isn't good enough to win games. We have to be special to be able to win.”
JC lost its conference opener to Navarro College last week in Jacksonville when the Bulldogs rallied in the last 8.6 seconds to win by three points.
A plethora of turnovers and poor free throw shooting compromised JC's chances against Navarro.
The Jags will enter tonight's affair having split its two games at the Joe Huey-Richland College Classic over the weekend.
In the Jags' win over Brookhaven College on Saturday, the Purple and White shot just over 60-percent from the charity line — still not great by industry standards — after averaging just south of 50-percent heading into the Navarro game last week, so the Jags seem to be improving in that department.
The Rangers' most eye popping triumph came on Nov. 20 when the Rangers went into Lufkin and hung a n 82-66 loss onto Angelina College in the Region XIV opener for both units.
It should be noted however, that only two of Kilgore's wins have come against NJCAA Division I foes — by comparison, JC has four wins over NJCAA Division I schools, so give the strength of schedule edge to the Jags.
Regardless of who the Rangers have played, Bailey said he still holds the Rangers in high regard.
“Kilgore has proven that they are a special basketball team,” Bailey said. “They were the first team in our conference to get 10 wins, so that says a lot.”
Kilgore relies on its guards, both sophomores, for the bulk of its production.
Point guard Lonnie McClanahan (6'1”) averages right at 12 points a game while pulling down 3.2 rebounds and handing out four assists.
Shooting guard Quinton Upshur (5'5”) accounts for 11 points and 5.4 boards a game.
JC will counter with a pair of sophomore transfers in Kennedy Eubanks and Mitchell Farr.
“Eubanks leads the Jags in scoring (13 ppg) and in board sweeping (6.8 rpg.) while Farr is pumping in an average of 11.8 points each outing.
Farr hauls in 3.2 caroms a games.
JC returns home to take on the Northwestern (La.) State JV team at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with the women's game to follow at 8 p.m.