By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Brad Hoyt doesn't want the John Wood Community College men's basketball team to change anything.
"We have to keep our identity," Hoyt said.
That means the Trail Blazers' effort and tenacity needs to be better than any other team in the Region 24 Tournament, which is being played this weekend at the JWCC Student Activity Center.
"Really, we have to be who we are defensively and on the glass," said Hoyt, the JWCC head coach who spent this week preparing to host the annual tournament. "That's what we've done throughout the year to stay close and give ourselves a chance in close games.
"We have to guard and rebound. That's who we are. That's what we do."
Should John Wood, which is seeded third with a 20-9 record, make a run at the title, it's going to take a little more than that.
"You have to get hot," Hoyt said. "The ball has to bounce the right way. You've got to get a little hot. You've got to get a little momentum."
There's no place better for that to happen than the Student Activity Center.
Over the last two years, the Trail Blazers have lost just four games in their own facility. Two of those losses came last week to the teams seeded ahead of them in the tournament -- top-seeded Rend Lake and second-seeded Danville. However, both of those games were one-possession affairs in the final minute of regulation.
"We have to get back in the defensive mode and not give up any easy baskets," JWCC sophomore guard Brad Hamilton said. "Somebody, on any given night, is going to get hot. So we just have to play our game."
The tournament begins Friday afternoon with three first-round games being played. The semifinals are Saturday and the championship is scheduled to tip at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The region champion advances to the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Danville, Ill. Unlike years past where two teams from the region advanced, only the region champion will head to Danville.
That puts a higher priority on playing with confidence and avoiding mistakes.
"We can't take plays off," Hoyt said. "We can't relax. We have to be at our very best."
Playing at home could be a blessing in that regard. Or it could be a curse. That depends on how the Trail Blazers approach it.
"It can be a trap," Hoyt said. "It gives us confidence to play at home, but it can't be a false confidence. It can't be a relaxed confidence. We have to play with some fire and the belief we can win. We can't expect it. We have to earn it."