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Longhorns readying for Lions

Marengo Academy will face Evangel Christian at Faulkner University in Montgomery Friday in the first round of the AISA Class AA State Tournament.

“They’ve got two or three good ballplayers,” Marengo head coach Danny Stenz said of the Montgomery-based ECA, which will enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the East Region. “They’re pretty quick and they’ve got one guy that shoots threes really well.”

The Longhorns, the No. 2 seed from the West Region, returned to practice Monday for the first time since falling to Southern Academy in the region championship game.

“Our legs were a lot better,” Stenz said of his group, which played three games in as many days during last weeks tournament.

Stenz anticipates that the rest will do his team a lot of good as it heads into the match-up with Evangel.

“They’re going to play full-court man-to-man on us,” Stenz said of the Lions’ defensive approach.

According to the MA head coach, the team is focusing many of its efforts during this week of practice on ball control.

“We’ve got to cut down on our turnovers,” Stenz said. “We had a lot of bad passes (during the region tournament).”

Stenz said the team will also need to improve its defensive play.

“Maybe play a little bit better defense and contest every shot,” Stenz said.

As for their half-court offense, the Longhorns are looking for better execution on their inside-out game that relies heavily upon center John Carlton down low and a bevy of shooters on the perimeter.

“We’re a real streaky outside shooting team,” Stenz said. “Hopefully we can get a few more picks and try to open it up for John. And John is going to have to kick it out if he’s got a double-team.”

While his squad does have some concerns to address, Stenz believes this Marengo team is good enough to get past the first-round speed bump that has bounced it from the first round of the state tournament each of the last two years.

“I really do think this is the group that’s going to get over that hump this year,” Stenz said.

Marengo’s first-round game is scheduled to tip off at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Tine-Davis Gymnasium on the campus of Faulkner University in Montgomery.