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Merced, Golden Valley take center stage

The waiting is the hardest part for Keith Hunter.

Hunter has spent the past week getting his Golden Valley boys basketball team prepared for tonight's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener against Sacramento Kennedy (14-13).

Meanwhile, across town Merced (18-9) has been focusing on Nevada Union (18-9).

A week is too long as far as Hunter is concerned.

"I don't know how else to put it," Hunter said. "We've had four days in a row of practice. That's a long time off.

"I'm not sure if that's a good thing. At this time of year you're used to your routine of two games a week."

Tonight the wait is over.

Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

The week off may have been a good thing for Hunter's boys.

Senior John Sykes was unable to practice the bulk of this week because of an illness.

Sykes was joined on the sideline by teammate Donte Scott, who took a blow to the head in the regular season finale against Atwater.

"I think by (today) we'll be 100 percent," Hunter said. "But will our preparation by 100 percent?"

If GV (23-4) happens to be without Sykes or Scott don't expect Hunter to change a thing.

"We've worked hard to be the No. 3 seed," Hunter said. "We're playing Kennedy. They're the No. 14.

"Change? That's not going to happen. In my mind that would be idiotic.

"I've got a lot of respect for Kennedy, but we're not going to change who we are because we've been pretty damn good."

Don't expect Marcus Knott to make many changes tonight either.

Merced's game against Nevada Union may be determined on which team can impose its will on the other.

"Nevada Union wants to play at a more methodical pace than we like to play," Knott said.

"It's going to be a matchup of two contrasting styles. They shoot the ball well if they get free and they aren't going to make a lot of mistakes on their own.

"I don't see any glaring matchup problems like we had two years ago against McClatchy. If we do our job and play hard, we should hold our own."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at