Saints chase titles

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 5, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Ever since David King and Melanie Hall were named the head coach of Trinity Episcopal&8217;s varsity boys and girls basketball teams, respectively, one thing has been synonymous &8212; both teams playing in a South State Tournament in the same season.

Things will be no different this year for the Trinity hoops program. The Saints rallied to defeat Bowling Green 54-48 Wednesday night and the Lady Saints rolled past Centreville 52-26 Tuesday night in the first round of the MPSA District 4-AA Tournament at Silliman.

With the wins, both teams automatically qualify for the Class AA State Tournament next week at Columbia Academy. And they did it for the second year in a row in AA, something few people thought was possible.

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But, first things first: There&8217;s the matter the District 4-AA Tournament. The Saints (15-7) meet top-seeded Brookhaven Academy at 5:20 p.m. today.

&8220;They&8217;re just up in your face, man-to-man the whole game,&8221; Saints head coach David King said. &8220;They&8217;ve got four of the best shooters in the state on one team, and they&8217;re guard-like quick. If you play zone, they nail threes in your face.&8221;

The Cougars (26-1) enter the game ranked No. 1 ranking in The Democrat&8217;s area private school boys poll and ranked No. 1 ranking in all of Class AA. And they&8217;re also the defending Class AA State Champions.

&8220;They have four seniors starting,&8221; King said. &8220;It&8217;s five great basketball players and a great basketball coach going up against five football players and a mediocre football coach. It&8217;s the classic mismatch. But our kids will show up. They&8217;ll fight the good fight. They always have and they always will as long as I&8217;m standing on the sidelines.

&8220;Somebody&8217;s going to have to pull an upset to beat them in AA. As the Trinity family has found out this week, though, it&8217;s just going to be a basketball game.&8221;

The second-seeded Lady Saints (18-8) take on No. 3 seed Brookhaven Academy at 6:40 p.m. today.

&8220;We&8217;re just going to have to play. I&8217;ve got people that can shoot the ball. If we do the fundamental things, we can be hard to beat.&8221;

The Lady Saints&8217; 18-8 record is best since going 22-8 in the 2001-2002 season &8212; the last time they won a district championship.

The Lady Cougars (23-10) hadn&8217;t lost a district game in nine years, but they were swept by Trinity and No. 1 seed Columbia Academy this sason. Those two teams gave the Lady Cougars four of their 10 losses during the regular season.

&8220;Brookhaven always has good teams and good coaching,&8221; Hall said. &8220;You can never count them out. They&8217;re fundamentally sound. But as I&8217;ve always said, if my girls play hard, they are tough to beat.&8221;

In another boys semifinal game involving an area team, the No. 3 seed Centreville Tigers, who defeated host Silliman 69-55 in the first round to also automatically qualify for AA South State, will meet No. 2 seed Columbia Academy (23-6) today at 6:20 p.m.

&8220;It&8217;s big for us. We played well against Silliman. We haven&8217;t been to South State since the early 90s, when I played here,&8221; Tigers head coach Jason Horne said.

Columbia Academy enters the game ranked No. 4 in Class AA and its only two losses in district play during the regular season were to Brookhaven Academy.

&8220;They&8217;re tough. They got two really good guards and a big guy inside, (Dustin) Hofer,&8221; Horne said. &8220;We&8217;re going to have to double-team. Hopefully we can stop No. 22, (Travis) Pace, from penetrating and dishing off.

&8220;They usually play a man defense. They used some full-court pressure on Oak Forest. We&8217;ve just got to take care of the basketball. &8220;

Another player they&8217;re going to have to contain is Warren Lott, who had 27 points in the Cougars&8217; 60-39 first-round win over Oak Forest Wednesday night.

&8220;They&8217;re going to be a challenge for us. If we can play with the intensity and focus we had against Silliman, we have a chance,&8221; Horne said. &8220;We&8217;ve got to limit turnovers. We&8217;ve also got to get it inside and they double-team, then get it outside and make the shots. We shot 60 percent against Silliman. We&8217;re going to have to double the effort we had against Silliman. Shoot well, block out, rebound.&8221;