"We got a lot of players who are from around Hagerstown and have seen this game before," said Kenny Keyes, who replaced Brown on the HCC bench. "(North Hagerstown graduate) Clif Carey said this is just like another North-South game, only we are South because we are wearing green."
Any motivation is a good one for the Hawks (7-8) when they tackle 14-1 Allegany. But Keyes concedes that this one will be a little different, even for him.
"Yeah, this year will be different, especially with my record," Keyes said, laughing. "It is kind of weird. I have been through these games as an assistant, but never as a head coach. I helped in these games giving suggestions of what we should do, but I never had to make the decisions."
The biggest decisions will be to find ways to keep HCC producing on offense while protecting the interior of its defense. The Hawks are coming off Wednesday's 134-74 win over Anne Arundel, but have shown the tendency to be soft on defense in the paint in games they have lost.
For the last two years, Allegany has done the inside job while controlling the majority of the series.
"I always enjoyed coaching against Jim (Brown)," Allegany coach Bob Kirk said. "We would get into these games, coach and leave the game on the floor. I liked that and I'll miss coaching against Jim. But even without Jim, we are not going to change the way we play the game. We like our team ... we've played hard, but we have not played any perfect games yet."
By the numbers, both teams have balance, but Allegany has more production.
The Trojans are led by Shawn Wiggins and Kevin Mickens, averaging 15 points each. Meanwhile, Thomas Johnson tops HCC at 15.7 points, followed by Rexson Kenley and Andre Brooks at nine points per game each.
"We have to stop Wiggins and Jeremy Snyder from shooting 3s and then we have to stop Mickens on the inside," Keyes said. "But Wiggins is the key. We have to stop him because when he hits the 3s, it gets them going."
Kirk said Allegany won't address the HCC game until this morning. The Trojans played a tough game against Frederick on Wednesday and didn't do much on Thursday.
Still, even without Brown, the main objective of tonight's game is the same - both teams want to win, considering this meeting counts in the Maryland JuCo Conference standings, but they are also gauging the opposition for any future meetings.
"We have some new guys on the team, but they know who are the teams we have to beat in the region," Kirk said. "We have played Garrett already and now we will be facing HCC. They know the importance of this game."
For HCC though, it's a chance to re-establish itself as a team to reckon with. After an embarrassing loss at Chesapeake to start the new year, Keyes told the Hawks to clean the slate and start from scratch. The philosophy has worked, but tonight's matchup will be a huge checkpoint.
"This is probably the least important of the at least three times we will face them," Keyes said. "I want to see this game because I want to see how well we are playing. This will help us with strategy and matchups for when we meet them again. But if we play well enough and can sneak out a win, it will make Allegany pay attention to us when we get to the (Maryland JuCo and Region XX) tournaments."