Lometa has not played a game in almost two weeks, but the layoff feels longer to Aaron Nuckles.
“It feels like it’s been about 12 months,” the Hornets head coach said. “Honestly, it feels like the beginning of the season again.”
The last time No. 19 Lometa played a meaningful game was Feb. 4, when it completed an undefeated run to the District 28-1A, Division II championship. The Hornets competed in a warm-up game Friday against Walnut Springs, but Nuckles treated the contest like a glorified practice.
And the waiting is not over yet.
The Hornets’ idle streak finally ends Friday — 17 days after it began — in an area round game against either No. 3 Oakwood or Spurger.
Although Lometa (20-5) will not know its fate until the two play Tuesday, Nuckles knows which team he expects to face in the Hornets’ playoff opener.
“We’re treating it like it is Oakwood,” he said. “We’re pretty sure who it is going to be. At this point, I’d like to be surprised, but we are pretty sure it is going to be Oakwood.
Sporting Baylor commit Damiyne Durham on their roster, the Panthers have won 10 of their last 12 games with their only losses coming against district foes No. 2 Laneville and No. 7 Douglass.
Durham — a senior post — is averaging 30.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, while guiding Oakwood to a 22-4 overall record.
“We’ve got to stop him and make someone else beat us,” Nuckles said. “He can be contained. We just can’t let him get hot.”
Durham has scored 35 points or more on seven occasions this season, producing a season-high 51 points against Centerville. But the Panthers possess plenty of firepower outside of Durham.
Oakwood averages 80 points per game and is not afraid to shoot from deep, attempting 680 3-pointers (26.2 per game) this season.
While Nuckles has a good grasp of what to expect from his potential opponent, the Hornets’ long layoff has left him with questions concerning his own squad.
“The kids have been working so hard in practice, I just hope it transposes to the game Friday because we will need it to,” he said. “At times it looks like we haven’t played in a while, but at times we look really good.”
He knows one thing for sure, though.
“The way we practice and as hard as these kids go every day, conditioning-wise, we are going to be fine,” Nuckles said.