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Hornets face back-to-back area challenges

John Essex (4-3) head coach Rodney Dixon took notice Saturday of the fact that his team had moved to a winning record with a win over area rival Linden. More importantly, he noted, the Hornets held a 2-0 record in area play.

But Dixon’s satisfaction was short-lived as, one breath later, he mentioned his team’s upcoming gauntlet in which it will face area opponents Sunshine and Sweet Water in consecutive days.

“They’re focused,” Dixon said of his players. “they know that if we get these two wins, that’s everybody in our area. Of course, we’ll have to turn around and do it again.”

“We’ve got to come together as a team with two big area games,” junior Zameke Fluker said. “We want to become the No. 1 team in the area.”

The Hornets will begin their uphill climb tonight when they travel to Newbern to take on the perennially formidable Sunshine Tigers.

“I know they’re tall and they’re long,” Dixon said of the Tigers. “I’ve got to prepare for the (6-foot-8-inch) center (Dayton Mickens) definitely. We’re looking at a lot of defensive schemes to stop the big man on the inside. I’m going to have to key on Mickens.”

Dixon said the matchup with Sunshine will be very similar to the one the Hornets had with Linden Saturday night. In that game, JEHS had to rely upon its quickness and determined defensive mindset to knock off the Patriots.

“It’s going to be very similar (to the Linden game plan),” Dixon said. “We want to push the ball, keep the ball moving all night long.”

That ability to move the basketball has proven invaluable for John Essex during its current three-game winning streak.

“If you communicate with the team and the team cooperates with you, you can’t help but win,” Darius Powell said.

Powell posted a season-high 11 points Saturday against Linden, making him the seventh player this season to score in double figures for the Hornets. That depth of scoring ability has also served JEHS well during its run.

“We have to work as a team. We’ve got to work together and take smart shots,” Fluker said. “If you work together, you’re going to get your points.”

Fluker also emphasized that continued contributions from multiple players will be vital as the Hornets continue through their schedule.

“If at least three of us can get in double figures every night, we’ll be unstoppable,” Fluker said.

In addition to his intent of mixing up the defensive schemes, Dixon said the offense will offer some new looks as well.

“I’ve got a couple new offensive schemes I’ve put in,” Dixon said.

After his team faces the Tigers tonight, it will turn around and host the Bulldogs approximately 24 hours later.

“With these guys, we’re just going to go at it real hard,” Dixon said of his team’s strategy against a Sweet Water (3-0) squad he has yet to scout. “I’m going in blind, but I know they do have some short, stocky, strong, quick guards.”

Dixon said Sweet Water is extra dangerous due to the fact that many of its players understand the level of commitment required to win a championship because of their success on the football field.

“They’re going to have a different kind of momentum than our guys are going to have,” Dixon said.