By DAVID HARPSTER
Independent sports writer
MASSILLON Less than a month ago, the Massillon and Perry girls basketball teams opened the 2013-14 season on the Panthers’ home floor.
The result that day was a 49-41 Perry victory.
Less than a month later the two teams will meet again, this time in the nightcap of the 23rd annual Mayor’s Cup tournament at Washington High School on Wednesday. After defending Mayor’s Cup champion Central Catholic meets Northwest at 6 p.m., Massillon and Perry will tangle at approximately 7:30.
It’s a rare chance at a rematch for the Tigers, who, as an independent, usually don’t see teams twice in the regular season.
“It’s a unique situation for us. Being an independent we don’t get a chance to do that very often,” Massillon coach Mark Green said after Monday’s practice. “That home-court advantage is a good thing.
“Perry got us on their floor and played well in the opener. This is an opportunity for us to turn the tables for us.”
The Tigers are 2-3 after losing to Stow on Dec. 9. Green isn’t fielding the team he envisioned during the preseason because of a rash of injuries that has sidelined four players — Aly Hendricks, Rainesha Lenzy, Demetria Anthony and Jasmine Rey — who figured to see significant minutes this season.
Green isn’t using the injuries as a crutch, though.
“We’re pretty thin, but I told them to dig in,” Green said. “It’s a measure of your character when you have some adversity.
“We don’t have much of a choice. You just have to suck it up and do what you can do. I don’t have a crystal ball to know how we’re going to play, but our expectations are we’re going to play well. We’re going to battle Perry, and if they beat us, they’re going to have to earn it.”
The Panthers enter Wednesday off losses to Jackson and Hoover that dropped them to 5-3. Still, the first win over Massillon helped give coach Dave Waseity’s young team a much-needed push in the right direction en route to a 5-1 start.
“The good start was key, and it was nice for the girls to experience that,” Waseity said. “All in all, it got the kids excited and got some people talking about us a little bit. Hopefully it will serve us well going forward.
“We get better every game out, and we learn something new every game. We have two sophomores and three freshmen playing a lot, so they’re experiencing a lot of things for the first time.”
While Perry and Massillon are playing in the prime-time slot Wednesday, Central Catholic is the team looking to defend its Mayor’s Cup title from last year. Coach Gary Isler led the Crusaders to wins over Massillon and Perry last winter to secure just the second Mayor’s Cup championship in school history. Central Catholic won its previous title in 1999.
The Crusaders have reeled off wins over Lake Ridge Academy and Akron East to move to 4-3 this season.
Northwest enters Wednesday looking to snap a three-game losing streak that has dropped the Indians to 1-4. While it’s still relatively early, coach Donnie Schenz realizes his team needs to shake off its early-season issues as quickly as possible.
“There’s been some good things so far, but there’s also been some rough spots,” Schenz said. “We’ve told the girls it’s that point in the season where it’s make-or-break time.
“At 1-4 we’re looking to come in here and hopefully, at worst, get a split. If you don’t, you’re looking at digging out of a hole the second half of the season.”
Wednesday’s winning teams will meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. for the championship. The consolation game is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. at Washington High School.
Reach David at 330-775-1129 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @dharpsterINDE