Excel basketball coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said it’s the history the facility shares with his players that prompted the school to host the first round of the state playoffs there.
“I have several players who are 18 years old and they spent 13 years playing basketball in that facility,” he said. “That’s why I look at it as our home court, too.”
Excel will play Holy Innocents on Saturday. Game time is 6 p.m.
The game will bring together two top-flight teams who played very good basketball this season.
The Golden Bears, coached by Terry Kelly, have a 13-5 overall record and a 6-2 record in Region 5-A. The Golden Bears have been scoring an average of 59 points a game while allowing 51.
Excel is 25-2 overall with a 12-0 record in Region 6A-A. The Eagles have been scoring an average of 62 points per outing while allowing 51 points.
The two teams have two common opponents, St. Francis and Mount Paran Christian.
Holy Innocents defeated St. Francis 67-54 on Nov. 16 and lost 73-64 to Mount Paran Christian on Dec. 4. Excel lost to St. Francis 59-45 on Feb. 15 and to Mount Paran Christian 53-47 on Dec. 15, its only regular season loss.
Nickerson said coaches have received written reports on their opponent and have “videos on the way.”
“I’ve also seen two or three of their players at some of the showcases I’ve attended,” he added.
The coach said he’s even received word-of-mouth reports for a long time.
“I’ve heard good things about them all year,” he said. “I expect it to be nothing short of a great game and a great first-round matchup for us. Whichever team comes the sharpest is going to win.”
The coach hopes playing at the Aubrey Street facility will help make his youngsters sharp at game time.
“I have players more comfortable at Aubrey than at Excel,” he said. “They grew up in that gym.”
He said another compelling feature of the gym is that it can be “loud.”
Nickerson said his players should be OK with playing in that facility, which can seat “about 800 to 1,000.”
While the gym has a lot of history associated with it, Excel is looking to make its own history.
The school is playing for its second time in the state playoffs, having won a game in 2008.
But Nickerson doesn’t have his young charges locked in on what’s happened in the past.
“We want to follow in our own footsteps,” he said. “The way I like to talk about history is to let the players know what they’re doing is important, but I try to stay away from comparing what we do with what others have done. I want us to be our own team and concentrate on our own accomplishments rather than something another team did.”
Nickerson also hopes it’s not just fans from Excel and Holy Innocents that attend Saturday’s game.
“We’d like as many people as possible to come out. If we had the support of the entire Cartersville community, it’d be a huge advantage if they’d come out and scream their lungs out for us.”