As sequels go, the Hudson-Springstead boys basketball rivalry is approaching Friday the 13th status. Tonight, for the fourth time since Dec. 12, the Cobras and Eagles clash. Only this time, the stakes are significantly higher. The winner moves within a game of the Class 4A state tournament. Springstead won the first three by an average of 19.3 points, but its margin of victory decreased each time, lending credence to the adage that it's tough to beat a team thrice in one season. But what about a fourth time? Is Hudson poised to overtake the Eagles, or do three previous wins give Springstead — tonight's home team — a significant mental edge? We'll know the answers around 9 tonight, but until then, we've dug for hints by reflecting on the first three meetings and getting the coaches' take on this rare fourth matchup.
Game 1 (at Springstead)
Springstead 78, Hudson 49
Perhaps the most misleading outcome of the series. Hudson trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter, but the Eagles went on a 27-5 run in the final eight minutes amid a series of Hudson miscues. Springstead senior Dante Valentine had 22 points, seven assists and four steals.
Game 2 (at Hudson)
Springstead 71, Hudson 54
A couple of early Chris Russo 3-pointers helped give Hudson a 20-12 lead. Then, the turnover epidemic that besieged the Cobras in Game 1 resurfaced. Springstead scored the last 19 points of the first half to take a 37-24 lead into the locker room. Isaiah Mason led the winners with 29 points.
Game 3 (at Sunlake)
Springstead 52, Hudson 39
The Class 4A, District 8 title game. The score was tied 24-all at halftime, but Springstead held the Cobras to two third-quarter points. Again, turnovers (16 of them) thwarted the Cobras, who got a double double (16 points, 17 rebounds) from senior guard Jarrod Branco. Valentine (18 points) came one rebound shy of a double double.
Game 4 (at Springstead)
Winner faces: Ocala West Port/St. Augustine winner in Saturday's region final
Eagles coach Pat Kelly
"It's just this game that I'm looking at. I'm not really counting how many times I played them, but looking at what I've got to do in this game to enhance our chances of being successful. Obviously we've got a lot of film to look at so that's something we attended to."
Cobras coach Jason Vetter
"If I were Springstead, I think I'd hate playing us a fourth time, only because they already beat us three times. How many times should you have to beat someone? But for us, obviously we're glad to see them again."
Two meetings in 11 days?
Credit the state's reconfigured playoff bracket with forcing another Cobras-Eagles encounter so soon. In the previous configuration, teams from the same district had no chance of facing each other in the playoffs until the region finals. Now, presumably to reduce travel, district foes can meet each other in the second round. Vetter, for one, doesn't like the new format. "The change was made for travel purposes. But that, to me, is the greatest charm of advancing to the playoffs," he said. "Making a two-hour drive to play in someone else's gym, having a packed house rooting against you. What a great character-builder for the kids."