Saints open with defending champs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The three letters MPSA basketball teams fear more than most will await Trinity Episcopal today at 5:30 p.m. at the Class A Championships in Greenville.

CM&I literally translates Christ Missionary and Industrial, but in the MPSA basketball world it stands for dominance.

The Crusaders from Jackson won the overall MPSA crown last season by knocking off Delta Academy 67-57 in the finals.

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And the Saints (29-4), the 2003 South State champions, have drawn them.

&uot;We’ve been battle tested more than any other school in Class A this season,&uot; Trinity head coach David King said. &uot;We don’t fear anybody, but we’re going to have to play our best game of the year.&uot;

No one could have predicted a second round matchup of this caliber for Trinity, but after CM&I was upset by Winston Academy at Central State last week, the best the Crusaders could do was ultimately their third-place finish.

Winston lost to Briarfield Academy on Monday 45-43, while CM&I (23-8) finished off Strider Academy to advance to today’s round.

A win by either team ensures a spot in next week’s overalls in Clinton at Mississippi College.

Trinity will attempt to become the second Natchez team this week to qualify for overalls after a Luke Ogden buzzer beater locked up Adams County Christian School on Monday.

&uot;(CM&I) is more athletic on paper than anyone else in MPSA,&uot; King said. &uot;It’s a situation where we could play the best game of our lives and still lose because of their athleticism.&uot;

Trinity, who typically plays an in-your-face man-to-man defense, will have to adjust to more zone than it is accustom to playing due to the Crusaders speed.

King expects his early season scheduling of multiple road tournaments and matchups in New Orleans against AAs Jackson Academy and Madison Ridgeland Academy to pay off for the Saints.

&uot;We made this schedule before the season in order to vie for a state championship,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s why we didn’t play a lot of area teams. We played in big venues and I know the kids will draw on that.

&uot;They’ll play hard and that’s all I can ask for.&uot;

With a lineup of two 6-foot-2ers and a 6-5 post, the Crusaders have by far the toughest assignments Trinity has seen all year.

But with 6-4 post Dudley Guice and guards Chase Brown and Gregory Ketchings, King feels confident his Saints can match up.

&uot;We’re ready to play. We’ve been off since Saturday and the kids are pumped up,&uot; he said. &uot;The team that wants it the worse will win. To be the best, we’ve got to beat the best.&uot;