The Northwest Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge basketball teams are in a similar place right now.
Both teams are trying to stay near the top of the South Piedmont Conference standings, as they make their way through the first go-around of league play.
Hickory Ridge (6-2, 2-0) is atop the SPC standings with Concord, as the Bulls are off to their best start in the five year history of the program.
Northwest Cabarrus (4-4, 1-1) is trying to fight its way out of the middle of the pack, as the Trojans look to be SPC contenders once again.
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Hickory Ridge also has revenge on its mind, as the Bulls lost all three matchups with the Trojans last year in both team's first year in the all-Cabarrus County league, including a 67-51 whipping in the SPC tournament.
For Bulls' star Quinton Wimbish and nine other seniors on the now veteran cast, it is the last chance to beat the Trojans on their home floor.
Northwest Cabarrus is looking to continue their winning ways over the Bulls as junior point guard Ameer Jackson leads his team into the heart of SPC play.
After working their way up the SPC ladder last year, the Bulls are one of teams expected to contend for a league title this season.
After five years of building a program, Hickory Ridge finally has the experience and talent combined to do just that.
So far, the Bulls have looked good with five senior starters led by its all-conference leading scorer Wimbish, who drives the team.
However, Wimbish has been fighting some health issues this season, forcing others to step up.
That might have been good for the team early on.
Senior Jay Lamothe stepped in nicely, as the team's top option in Wimbish's absence and forms a nice one-two scoring punch when they are both in the lineup.
Both Lamothe and Wimbish have a steady senior in Travis Baucom (4.6 assists/per game) to get them the ball.
Inside, the Bulls have been nearly as good as the trio of Danny Book (6-foot-6), Dillion Burdette (6-foot-2) and Danny Worth (6-foot-10) who gives most teams fits with their size and strength.
Book, who averages nine points and eight assists per game, and Burdette, who contributes seven points and eight assists a night, are the bruisers who both score and rebound effectively and are close to averaging a double-double. Worth gives the Bulls a size mismatch in nearly every game.
Both Hickory Ridge and Northwest Cabarrus prefer to play in the half court and score in the 50s or 60s, so pace shouldn't be a problem for either team.
The Bulls have been the more consistent team with a big win against Central Cabarrus in their conference opener and have a major size advantage inside.
Expect a tight, hard fought game that could come down to who executes best in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Trojans have started the season against a brutal schedule that included strong non-conference opponents like Mooresville, Sun Valley and Weddington.
Northwest opened SPC play against conference favorite, Concord, who defeated the Trojans 68-40.
Northwest Cabarrus is battle-tested and ready to take it out on the rest of their schedule.
Junior point guard Ameer Jackson has proven to be one of the more improved and dynamic guards in the SPC, as he leads his team averaging 17 points per game, four assists, three rebounds and two steals per game.
But Jackson is hardly alone, as a veteran cast of players hope to get more consistent as the year turns.
Junior Corey Seager is also a solid weapon in the backcourt with Jackson as both players can handle the ball and shoot it.
But the biggest matchup against Hickory Ridge will be in the frontcourt, where the Trojans lack big-time size but not talent.
Seniors David Broome (8 points, 5 rebounds per game), Tyler Church, Ray Kingston (8 points, 7 rebounds) and Arlan Wallace will give every effort to making life tough on the Bulls.
If the Trojans can hold their own on the boards, this game should come down to the finish.