MAHOMET — It's Mahomet-Seymour against Rantoul.
The crowd on both sides will voice their displeasure on officials' calls.
The players on both sides will fiercely compete after loose balls. It's a high-charged, electric atmosphere that's sure to produce a memorable game when the two Corn Belt rivals meet, even if postseason seeds and conference finishes are already determined.
The latest edition, a 65-59 win for Mahomet-Seymour on the Bulldogs' Senior Night, was no exception.
"It kind of mirrors the first one a little bit, except with a different outcome," M-S coach Chad Benedict said in reference to the 77-66 overtime win Rantoul emerged with Jan. 13. "Hats off to Rantoul. Their kids competed. They turned up the pressure. We couldn't ever get away from them. I just want to really commend the Rantoul coaching staff and their players. They played hard."
So did his Bulldogs in a physical game throughout that escalated in a brief skirmish between M-S senior guard Brad Izatt and Rantoul senior guards Jackson Carver and Kelly Foster with 3:19 left and Mahomet-Seymour up 59-52.
The Bulldogs then nearly lost their nerve, turning the ball over five times after that and 10 times total in the fourth quarter. M-S (14-12, 9-5), however, overcame that, just like it did an early 14-4 deficit.
"They can bring the heat," Benedict said of Rantoul. "I think we just got sped up and didn't settle down. The big thing is we got rebounds. We kept them off the glass."
Senior forward Reid Farchmin, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, finished with two points but grabbed 11 rebounds.
"I thought even though Reid struggled a little offensively tonight," Benedict said, "he was a man on the glass. He had some big ones in the fourth quarter."
Rantoul missed its first nine shots from the field in the fourth quarter and struggled from the free throw line, only making 1 of 6 in the final period. The Eagles (20-5, 10-3) made their first three free throws but finished 5 of 14. Senior guard Travis Britt, sophomore guard Johnny Jones and senior forward C.J. Morris each finished with 13 points for the Eagles.
"I think our biggest problem was our mental toughness, and we couldn't stop their dribble penetration," Rantoul coach Brett Frerichs said. "We were fouling the whole night, for whatever reason. They had a good game plan. They isolated their ball handlers against ours and penetrated, drew help, kicked and usually had a pretty good look."
Rantoul, however, closed to within 61-59 with 55 seconds left after Britt — who added nine rebounds, four steals and three assists — drained his only three-pointer from the left corner.
The Bulldogs made all six of their free throws in the final quarter, with junior forward Brad Herrmann (14 points) making two to put them up 63-59 with 37.5 seconds left to all but ice the game.
"It was crazy just going back and forth," said Herrmann, who tied for game-high scoring honors with teammate Matt Turner.
"The fans were cheering no matter what. We found a way to do it. We've been looking forward to this for a while. It just feels great."