Hosting Coosa in a crucial contest between the Region 7-AA/A frontrunners, the No. 7-ranked Tigers will be without senior superstar Corey Roper, who is serving the first game of a controversial two-game suspension.
Were going into (tonights) game expecting to win, just like we always do, said Van Es. Thats why we play to win. I fully believe our kids will play well.
Roper, the Tigers leading scorer, received two technical fouls and was ejected from Saturdays 87-80 overtime win at Calhoun. Although neither of Ropers technical fouls stemmed from on-court altercations, his ejection still results in an automatic two-game suspension under GHSA rules.
Van Es said Ropers penalty was far too severe, given that his ejection didnt involve a fight of any kind.
Its not right, said Van Es. Corey is not a hot head; never has been. And yet hes getting the same penalty as a player would get for punching someone in the face. Thats just not right.
Coosa coach Larry Bing said his team, which has won six straight games, hasnt been focusing on the availability of Roper this week at practice.
Weve prepared for this one the same way we usually do, said Bing. The main thing for us is to concentrate on playing our game. Thats our priority.
The absence of Roper will take some of the glitz out of tonights game, but it wont take away from the games impact on the standings. The Tigers (15-1, 7-0) own a 1½ -game lead over the Eagles (15-3, 5-1) as the teams square off for the third time.
Its always a fun game between these teams, said Bing. A lot of the kids are friends off the court, and they love to play each other.
Darlington has won the previous two meetings this season, including a 105-104 thriller on Dec. 15 at Coosa. Roper exploded for a school-record 45 points that night, capped by a game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer that completed Darlingtons comeback from a 13-point deficit in the final four minutes.
Just over a week later, Roper scored a team-high 23 points in helping Darlington beat Coosa 93-89 in the championship game of the Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival.
On Saturday against Calhoun, Ropers first technical came after he debated an officials call in the first half. The second one was called on him for shooting a dead ball during the overtime period.
Van Es questioned both calls, and felt the second was particularly unjustified.
All he did (when called for the second technical) was casually flip the ball toward the basket after the whistle had blown, said Van Es. How many times have you seen that happen, and nothing is done? But in this case, they call Corey for a second technical and now he has a two-game suspension. Unbelievable.
Darlington appealed the suspension, but the GHSA denied the appeal.
Its a steep price to pay for something that trivial, said Van Es. But well deal with it and move on. Thats all we can do at this point.