BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Forget the overall records, the playoff implications.
This one has the makings for another classic.
The Clinton Community College men’s basketball team plays host to rival North Country Community College in a battle for area bragging rights tonight at 7 p.m.
The Saints (15-8), who received contributions in large part from Ian Henderson (29) and Steve Carder’s (28) combined 57 points, grabbed a thrilling 100-94 double-overtime victory over the Cougars (11-10) in the first regular season matchup Nov. 2 in Saranac Lake.
North Country stands at 5-4 since resuming play for the second semester, losing three of four contests by a combined 13 points.
“We lost Brody Douglass just a couple of days before we got back from break, so it has taken us a little while to make some changes and have different people step up,” Saints coach Chad LaDue said. “We still feel we can be one of the top teams in our region. We’re always excited to play Clinton, and it’s typically a classic. Our first game was just that.”
Clinton, however, is fighting for a playoff berth in the Region III Tournament next month. After concluding the first semester on a five-game winning streak, the Cougars have only managed to win four of their last nine games.
During a three-game span beginning Jan. 20 and wrapping up Jan. 26, the squad lost all three contests by a combined five points.
“We got back on track last week with back-to-back wins over Fulton-Montgomery and Hudson (Valley),” Clinton coach Kevin Daugherty said. “The three close games that we lost, they were tough to take, but we played well. All considered, we’ve played well our last five games in a row.”
The Saints are led in scoring by Carder, who ranks first in Region III with 23.2 points per game. The former Northeastern Clinton standout recently eclipsed 1,100 points and is the program’s all-time leading scorer, while leading the team in rebounding at 12.6 boards per game.
North Country owns three players among the top-10 best 3-point shooters in the region. Ian Henderson, Steven Poulter and Jared Heden have all shot over 42 percent from the perimeter.
“It’s a game that comes down to the final few possessions,” LaDue said. “We’re just excited and hopeful everything goes well. I’m sure they’re looking to get us back.”
With a win, the Saints would clinch a Region III playoff spot with four regular season games remaining.
Kyree Hull and Mykell Crecko lead the Cougars in scoring at 14 points per game, while Chris Miller is second at 13.4.
Crecko is tied for first with Carder in Region III for rebounds per game (12.6) and Jamie Davison ranks sixth with five assists per contest.
Hull, who is sidelined for two weeks with a concussion, will be out of tonight’s lineup.
“Obviously, we want to control 3-point shooting and try our best with (Carder) inside,” Daugherty said. “He has created matchup problems for everyone in our region for the last two years. They have great balance and take care of the basketball. Their experience is a plus, too.
“I’m hoping there will be a playoff-like atmosphere. There should be excitement on campus. In my eight years at Clinton, I could tell you numerous stories about different games and strange outcomes, or a certain player that wasn’t a premier player stepping up. You just don’t know what to expect in these games.”TWITTER For live coverage of tonight's contest between the Saints and Cougars, follow @Ricky_PRSports on twitter.