When Rockhurst and Shawnee Mission East meet on the hardwood later tonight, it’ll be one of the most anticipated games of the years.
However, the Hawklets and Lancers are viewing it as just another game on their schedules even if the stands will be packed for the junior varsity bout.
SM East at Rockhurst
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
Parking lot opens: 4 p.m.
Gates open: 4:30 p.m.
JV tip-off: 5:30 p.m.[/pullquote]
Separated by less than four miles, it holds up as a great rivalry as the students from both schools know each other so well. SM East coach Shawn Hair, who graduated from Rockhurst in 1982, said the fans from both sides are clever.
He said the rivalry has changed since he graduated because of the advent of technology.
“A lot of these kids grew up in the same neighborhoods,” Hair said. “Maybe some kids went to St. Ann or Cure of Ars, but they knew kids who went to Corinth or Belinder. There’s so much interaction between the students now a days. I think it just builds and builds and builds.
“Chick-fil-A has been a huge part of this with the Coaches vs. Cancer and that contest has taken on its own identity. It’s a wonderful, true high school sports rivalry. Not many high school teams get that. It’s different than Shawnee Mission East-Shawnee Mission South. It’s not the public school kid, it’s the public versus the private.”
The rivalry has always stayed positive. Rockhurst coach Peter Campbell, who served as the athletic director for six years before coaching, said it starts with the administration.
“Make sure there’s a respect and a genuineness between the administrations to make sure we’re providing safe environments for our players and for our fans,” Campbell said. “Then it goes back to the head coaches’ relationship. Mark Nusbaum used to be the head coach and he and Shawn Hair were good friends and had a great friendship and a great relationship. So our players see that, and I think our fans see that, so there’s no real animosity.”
Campbell said the coaches then talk to the players about playing every game hard, but also having respect for their opponent. Campbell is also good friends with Hair, but that doesn’t mean anything when the ball is tipped.
Hair said this game isn’t difficult for him even if it is against his alma mater.
“It’s an important game on our schedule,” Hair said. “Yes, I graduated from Rockhurst High School, but I’m the head basketball coach at Shawnee Mission East. It’s an important to our kids, it’s important to our program; you try to take all the x-factors out and you focus on Shawnee Mission East playing the next opponent and the next opponent is Rockhurst.
“It’s not the most important game in the world. The most important game in the world is your last one, which is the state championship.”
However, this game can give each side a lot of momentum for the remainder of the season. Rockhurst is great on the offensive glass and plays about 10 to 11 players. That depth could play a factor if both teams are in foul trouble. SM East, on the other hand, only plays about seven or eight players.
The Lancers will need to try and contain Chris Teahan and Xavier Rhodes, while the Hawklets will focus on Trevor Thompson and Jack Schoemann.
“I think we’ll rely on our experience from having some really good people in the past,” Campbell said.