Trojans, Gamecocks wrap up storied rivalry

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 6, 2003

One of the biggest rivalries in the history of the state of Alabama has been the one between Troy State and Jacksonville State.

The two schools have met many times over the years in many sports, but the basketball rivalry may be going the way of the football rivalry.

Saturday, the two teams will meet for the final time as conference, barring a meeting in the Atlantic Sun tournament. Jacksonville State and Samford are leaving the Atlantic Sun for the Ohio Valley Conference following this season.

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However, Troy State basketball coach Don Maestri does not plan to let the rivalry fade.

"We have not started talking yet, but we will," Maestri said. "This would be a great non-conference game for our teams, one year up there, one year down here, because they are the oldest rival in the history of the school."

Although the future is in doubt, the final game of the known schedule will be played in Trojan Arena. The game will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Even though the game usually draws a good deal of attention because of the history in the series, this year's game will be interesting simply because the teams have something riding on the game itself.

Troy State enters the game leading the pack in the Atlantic Sun South Division and Jacksonville State trails North Division leader Belmont by only by three games.

"This is what made the rivalry so good," Maestri said. "Not only did people come to see the teams play because they were playing each other, they came to see good teams who were playing for something.

"Jacksonville State has a chance, a good one, to win a conference championship. We're fighting for that as well."

Recent history may also play a part in Saturday's game. In the most recent meeting between the two schools, Jacksonville State bounced Troy State from the first round of the Atlantic Sun tournament after the Trojans won a share of the regular-season championship.

However, Maestri said he did not think last season's game will have any bearing on this weekend's game.

"I'm not one that thinks last year has much to do with this year," Maestri said. "Jacksonville State is fighting for a conference championship this year; they weren't last year. We don't have two All-Conference players like we did last year. This is a completely different year."