HIBBING — The last time the Hibbing High School girls basketball team squared off against Duluth East, the Bluejackets took an eight-point victory, 55-47.
At the time, the Greyhounds were mired in a four-game losing streak, but since then, Duluth East has upped its game.
The Greyhounds had a five-game winning streak, which began on Jan. 14, including wins over Hermantown and Grand Rapids.
When Duluth East (10-12) visits Hibbing today, beginning at 7:15 p.m., at the high school gymnasium, Bluejacket coach Dave LaCoe expects to see a totally-different team than his team faced on Dec. 10.
On Friday, Hibbing hosts Deer River, beginning at 7:15 p.m.
“They’ve been playing better as of late,” LaCoe said. “This is a big game for us. We have three left, and for section-seeding-wise, this would definitely secure the second seed for that, if we win.
“We have to take care of our own business.”
That business, per usual, is on the defensive side of the ball.
“That’s the key to the game, and that’s been our key all year,” LaCoe said. “They have a couple girls that we need to key on to come out on top.”
What have the Greyhounds done so well since that last meeting?
“Their defense,” LaCoe said. “They’ve been giving up not-so-many points on the defensive end. They’re kind of a streaky team like us on the offensive end. They can have cold games.
“Their outside shooters can get hot, but their strength is on the inside. We did well on them that first time around.”
LaCoe expects Duluth East to mix it up defensively, using both man-to-man and zone.
It’s imperative that Hibbing run its systems to beat that defense.
“We have to be patient, but also aggressive,” LaCoe said. “We’ve been at our best when we’re taking the ball to the hoop, getting to the free throw line, kicking it out for open 3-pointers.
“We’re better at hitting those shots rather than forcing them up on the outside. If we can get our dribble-penetration and our dishes out to the 3-point line, that’s what works best for us.”
The Warriors’ game will have different implications, which are somewhat difficult to figure out.
The game has Iron Range Conference ramifications, but with what has happened this season, it’s hard to tell who may win the IRC title.
Hibbing, Virginia and Mesabi East all have one loss in the conference. The Bluejackets beat the Giants, but lost to the Blue Devils. Virginia beat Hibbing, but lost to Mesabi East. Those two teams meet next week in a game that could determine a winner.
“We have three teams that beat each other,” LaCoe said. “We each have one loss, but they play next week. I don’t know how the tiebreaker works, but for us to have a chance, we have to beat Deer River, then go from there on the tiebreaker stuff.”
The Warriors are 8-14 this season, and are coming off a 27-point loss to Virginia on Feb. 6.
“They’re kind of struggling this year, but they have some height,” LaCoe said. “They usually play a physical game, but if we can get up-and-down the floor against them, press them, we should turn them over and get some easy shots.”
The one problem Hibbing has had this year is playing the second game on back-to-backs this year.
“We’ve struggled with that this year,” LaCoe said. “We can’t take them lightly. We have to come out, be ready to go, and hopefully, have some legs left over after the East game.”