Shelby County showdown

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It’s a rivalry to the core. Usually preserved for the football field, Shelby Academy and Cornerstone Christian School find themselves in a similar spot as November 2007, when they met in the AISA Class 1A semifinal.

Wednesday, it’s the basketball semifinal at Huntingdon College. One will advance to the championship game and the other will go home.

Wednesday’s 1:30 p.m. game is the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. Cornerstone gave Shelby its first loss of the season in the Kingwood Christmas Tournament, 72-44. Shelby rebounded in mid-January to give the Chargers their only loss of the season, 52-45, and played the Chargers to the wire later in the month, falling short 55-53.

Cornerstone leader JV McKinney said he expects today’s battle to be like the last two.

“It’ll be close again because both teams will be coming out ready to play each other, ready to run and energetic,” he said.

Fans believe the difference makers in this year’s rivalry is McKinney and Shelby’s Sean Gilbert, but Shelby head coach Kevin Smith said that’s not the case.

“We don’t depend on Sean to score like they depend on JV,” Smith said. “We’re more balanced.”

McKinney said he believes if the Chargers can get in Gilbert’s head, he’ll unfold. But Smith disagrees.

“That would have been a concern for me early in the year, but I don’t think it will be this time. I think we’ve matured as a team,” he said.

Cornerstone head coach Tim Bullard knows a battle lay ahead.

“I’d prefer not to see Shelby again at all,” Bullard said before the AISA quarterfinal. “They match up well and they’re so big and physical. It’s one of those things if you have to play them you will. It’s hard to beat anybody three teams in a season. I don’t like to play anybody more than twice, but sometimes you have to.”

One of the two will advance past Wednesday with the chance to play either Central-Christian or defending state champion Warrior for the AISA Class 1A state title Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Live stats of the game can be tracked on the Huntingdon College Web site,