Mention the Kennett and Unionville rivalry to someone who went to either of the neighboring high schools, and chances are it won't take very long to get their blood boiling.

It can at times be an extremely heated rivalry.

The proximity of the two schools, which are located just a handful of miles apart on Route 82, is the backbone of the whole thing. But many other factors fuel the fire.

Athletic contests between the rivals have been battles of pride, and always will be.

Nowhere is that more evident than when Kennett plays Unionville in boys' basketball. Year-after-year, those match-ups are played in front of sold-out crowds.

For whatever reason, winning the boys' basketball games, more so than any other sport, seems to mean the world to both schools. Because of that, people that have been associated with the game over the years know first-hand the tremendous amount of intensity that flows from the crowd to the floor throughout.

"The schools are very different," said Evan Breisblatt, a 1992 Unionville graduate who scored 1,031 points in his career, and is now an assistant football coach at Kennett High. "There's an attitude towards each other that may be true, or may not be true. The Unionville people have a feeling that they're better than Kennett. The Kennett people have a feeling that Unionville has everything handed to them. I think that's where you get a lot of animosity.

"When we were on that court, it was like going to war. Kennett came after us like no other team -- like they had something to prove. On the Unionville side, it was like no way we could let Kennett beat us. It's definitely the most important game of the year. Plain and simple. You feel kind of important for that night. You're playing in front of the largest crowd you're ever going to play in front of and you know all eyes are on you. There's a lot of pressure playing in that game. There's a little more nervousness than usual. But when these two teams play there's no other feeling like it."

Kennett and Unionville have both fielded some terrific squads in the past, which only magnifies the whole thing. But even if one side comes in with a poor record, or both, the gymnasium is full regardless.

"When I first came to the school 21 years ago, I was amazed at how packed the game was and still is," said former Kennett head coach Rick Nelms, who led the Blue Demons to the state championship (AAA) in 2001-02. "When [Kennett's] 26-0 team played [in 2000] people were lined up outside at five-thirty to get tickets.

"It's almost like a game from the 1950s or 60s out of Indiana or Kentucky. You have four generations there sometimes. It's very exciting to coach in and probably way more exciting to play in. It's everything high school basketball should be -- no recruits, two neighboring districts going at it, and for all the hype there is usually great sportsmanship displayed by both sides."

Steve Tulleners was a star guard at Unionville High School. After graduating in 2001, he went on to play Division I basketball for two years at Temple University and then for two more years at Colorado State University.

"When I think back to high school basketball the first thing that comes to mind is Kennett/Unionville," said Tulleners, who is now an assistant coach at Unionville. "There's so much intensity and so much tradition. If you didn't go to Kennett or Unionville you can't fully understand the rivalry. The feeling you get before the game stays with you the entire game. It's hard to describe the level of emotions you experience.

"There's a lot of pressure to win. You see the Kennett kids everywhere and you're just kind of bred not to like them. It's just something that's in you, and everything that's happened between Kennett and Unionville in the past seems to come out when you're on that floor."

One of the players Tulleners used to do battle against was Kennett standout guard John Goodman.

The two are now good friends.

"When I was in high school playing against those guys I really didn't feel friendly towards them at all," said Goodman, a 2000 graduate who scored over 1,000 points in his career and went on to play Division I basketball at James Madison University. "I tried to make myself think I hated Unionville at the time, and there was definitely a lot of trash talking. You run into those guys all the time. It's pretty important to have those bragging rights so you can walk with your head a little higher. But now that I'm out of school and you see those guys there's no hate there. I have a lot of respect for them."

Goodman was a member's of Kennett's 1999-2000 team that went a perfect 26-0 on the way to winning the District 1 Class AAA championship, before suffering its only loss of the season in the first round of the state playoffs.

"We won every game but if we would've lost one of the Unionville games it would have been tough to look back on that season," said Goodman. "No matter how you're season is going if you win those two games you've had a good year. It's a lot like Duke/North Carolina.

"You go to the same dentist and the same barber. The closeness and the proximity of the schools make it what it is. And of course people try to make it blue collar versus white collar, and that adds a little spice to the rivalry. But there's people in Kennett that make more money than people in Unionville."

Said Tulleners, "When I was here they were the athletes and we were the smart kids. We wanted to prove that perception wrong."

There are some who feel Kennett/Unionville isn't quite what it used to be.

"It's a weird rivalry when you think about it," said Kennett head coach Dan Falcone. "On the one hand, Kennett players have historically taken pride in the fact that their environment is not nearly as comfortable. On the other hand, I think the teams now can't differentiate between familiarity and opposition. The rivalry has dwindled in large part because the Kennett and Unionville kids play with each other more than they compete against each other.

"I'm only basing this on six years of experience," added Falcone, "but the unmentionable portion of this rivalry stems from our suspicion that some of their students are insensitive. I only wish some of them were more culturally aware."

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