February 20, 2007
Albany -- The Deerfield-Windsor boys basketball team wouldn't mind another post-season like they had last year, with the Knights advancing all the way to the state title game.
Deerfield opens up play in the state tournament Thursday, but despite their success last year, the Knights aren't taking anything for granted.
The Deerfield Knights are happy to once again be heading into the state tournament as region champs.
Head coach Gordy Gruhl says, "It's easier when you've won a region championship, because your kids are real enthusiastic, they've got a good feel, and they've got confidence, which is the main thing."
Junior Center Andrew Cleeland adds, "We're pumped and ready to play."
The Knights will face a George Walton team they beat handily earlier in the year, but coach Gruhl isn't taking their first round game lightly.
"They're not going to start the game with what the final score was," says Gruhl, "they're going to start it at 0-0. Upsets occur when the better team lets them occur."
At 6'7" inches tall, Andrew Cleeland is used to being the biggest guy on the court.
The junior knows all too well that role can change in the playoffs.
No more evidence is needed that last years state title game, with Mount Pisgah's two 6'11" twin towers, one of which is the son of former NBA stand-out Ralph Sampson.
Cleeland says, "I don't usually have someone that's bigger than me, so it's nice to have someone that's bigger than be, so I can see how I adjust and play against bigger people."
Deerfield last won the state title in 2003, and coach Gruhl is hoping last years experience will help this season.
"Anytime you've been up in the final four and you've played in it, you're not shell-shocked like some teams are when they first get there," says Gruhl. "I think if we can get there, the experience from last year will certainly help us."
Gordy Gruhl has won three state championships with Deerfield.
The Knights open the state playoffs against George Walton Thursday at 8:30pm at First Presbyterian.