ELKHART — What's Elkhart Central working on in advance of Friday's boys basketball showdown against rival Elkhart Memorial?

What aren't the Blue Blazers working on?

"We're working on everything possible," first-year Central coach Terry Smith said late Wednesday after a 2-hour, 45-minute practice. "It's hard to even explain it all. We have so many idiosyncrasies that we've gottta cover, that we haven't gotten down yet, but we're working on it.

"We've only played one game, and we haven't played (in more than a week), so we could be sluggish for a while," said Smith, whose Blazers held off host Northridge 57-55 in their Nov. 22 opener. "We'll also probably be nervous and confident all at the same time. I know it's a big game, a big crowd. Hopefully, we've prepared as well as we can prepare, because good preparation creates confidence."

Smith and Central will try to end a couple troubling trends from a Blazer perspective.

The Crimson Chargers (1-1) have won five straight Longfellow Trophy matchups. A sixth straight would break the series record that Memorial shares with Central's 1974-75 to 1978-79 clubs.

Further, Smith is trying to become the first Blazer coach among the last four to win his initial matchup against the Chargers. Six of the last seven did not, with Mike Drews in 1998-99 the exception.

A year ago, Central was nipped 59-56 in the Longfellow game, but then won 71-61 in a holiday showcase rematch just 18 days later to end an overall six-game skid against Memorial.

That left the Chargers' Kyle Sears at 3-1 as a head coach against the Blazers. He's also a veteran of the series through his days as a Memorial player and assistant.

"It's one of those games that it doesn't matter who's the better team," said Sears, whose club wound up 5-18 last season to Central's 16-8. "It's going to be high energy and you've got to be able to handle the emotion of the game."

"It's incredible the amount of adrenaline that goes into that game," said Charger senior Joe Smith, who was part of it for the first time last season after transferring from Northridge. "To me, it's kind of about trying to find that perfect mix of a lot of energy and staying calm."

"They're quick and do a great job in the open court," Terry Smith, no relation to Joe, said after watching Memorial's 61-46 win Tuesday over Elkhart Christian. "They can shoot the 3 well and they get to the free throw line big time."

Joe Smith's averaging a team-leading 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals through the Chargers' first two games, which include a 59-53 overtime loss to Mishawaka in the opener. Junior Jose Soto is at 12.5 points and sophomore Hank Smith, Joe's younger brother, at 12.0.

In the Blazers' opener, returning Elkhart Truth All-Area first-teamer Cornell Conner had 11 rebounds and nine points. Fellow seniors Adonis Brown and Michael Boone added 10 points apiece, with Brown dishing six assists, while junior Deveon Jackson contributed 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.

Central outrebounded Northridge 30-16.

"They crash the boards extremely hard both offensively and defensively," Sears said, "and they run a lot of guys in and out who can score. ... They're active, they play with high energy and they're going to be tough. We'll have to find a way to handle the amount of pressure they'll bring."

The Chargers will be playing their third of five straight games at North Side Gym to start the season, but will officially be the visitor in this one.


What: John Longfellow Trophy game.

When: Friday, North Side Gym, following 6:15 p.m. JV.

All-time: Memorial leads 39-34.

TV: WHME (tape delay, 11 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday).

Radio: ESPN 102.7 FM.



* Elkhart Memorial (1-1) vs. Elkhart Central (1-0) at North Side Gym

* Jimtown (0-0) at Clinton Christian (2-1)

* Goshen (1-1) at Mishawaka (1-0)

* Northridge (0-2) at SB Riley (1-0)

* Triton (0-2) at NorthWood (0-0)

* Prairie Heights (0-2) at Fairfield (1-1)

* Elkhart Christian (0-1) at Hamilton (0-1)


* Carroll (1-1) at Concord (2-1)

* Crown Point (1-0) at Penn (0-1)

* Prairie Heights at Bethany Christian (1-2)

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