South State tourney begins for several area schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NATCHEZ — Even though the MPSA Class AA South State Tournament at Columbia Academy got under way on Monday, most of the teams from this area won’t play their first games until today.

And in the case of the Trinity Episcopal Saints, they had a few extra days of practice before playing their first game Thursday night. That’s because the Saints won the District 3-AA championship and in the process received a first-round bye.

Trinity will take on the winner of the game between Oak Forest, the No. 4 seed from District 5-AA and Copiah Academy, the No. 4 seed from District 4-AA in a quarterfinal round game Thursday at 5:15 p.m. If the Saints win, they will advance to the South State semifinals on Friday and will automatically qualify for next week’s Class AA State Tournament at Kirk Academy as one of the four teams remaining.

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Trinity coach David King said getting the bye was a positive for his team.

“The rest is always good and getting to scout your opponents is a big plus,” King said. “This team is battle tested. We expect to be at this point every year.”

King said his team knows the stakes are raised this time of year and will come out focused.

“We’ve got a proud tradition,” King said. “They know they’ve got to be the group to keep that tradition alive. We’re excited about the challenge that’s ahead of us.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise team at this year’s South State Tournament is the ACCS Lady Rebels, who went 2-6 in District 3-AA and ended up with the district’s No. 4 seed. Their opponent in the first round today at 6:30 p.m. is no stranger to postseason play – the Copiah Academy Lady Colonels.

“They’re a very well-coached team. They play in a very tough district with Brookhaven and Columbia,” Lady Rebels head coach Paul Hayles said. “They have a lot of tradition. They’re a very blue-collar, hard-working team.”

Copiah Academy, playing in the ultra-tough District 4-AA, is that district’s No. 3 seed behind No. 1 seed Brookhaven Academy, ranked No. 2 in Class AA, and host and No. 2 seed Columbia Academy.

Hayles said his team has to play one of its best games of the season to defeat the Lady Colonels and advance to the quarterfinals.

“We’ve got to maintain our consistency with our shooting. Unfortunately, we experience lulls in our shooting. If we don’t get in one of those lulls, I feel like we can be competitive,” Hayles said. “It’s going to take a very good effort to pull a win out. That was the whole goal – to get in the tournament. Then play your best and hopefully come out with a win.”

Hayles added that the Lady Rebels deserve to be here after the adversity they players went through early in the season. “They got that out of their minds and started playing hard. I feel like we’ve got a tremendous future in (girls’) basketball here at ACCS.”

The Centreville Academy Lady Tigers are the No. 2 seed out of District 5-AA, yet for some reason they will be the visiting team when they take on the Riverfield Academy Lady Raiders, District 3-AA’s No. 3 seed, today at 4 p.m.

“We’re the higher seed and I don’t know what the deal is,” Centreville head coach Jason Horne said. “I know that they’ve got a real good point guard. They hustle and play hard. They’ve got some good post players. We’re going to have to play to compete with them.” Horne said that point guard Amber Addington, who is averaging 25 points a game this season, is going to have to have a good game. He then added that the Gaulden twins, Emily and Erin, are going to have to play well, and that Olivia Ledbetter and Breann Deville are also going to have to step up their game.

The Centreville Academy Tigers have the same delimna as their female counterparts – having a higher seed than their first-round opponents, yet are the visitors. The Tigers, the No. 2 seed out of District 5-AA, will take on the Chamberlain-Hunt Wildcats, the No. 3 seed from District 3-AA, today at 5:15 p.m.

“They’ve got a 6-10 guy. He’s a ball player. No. 22, he’s probably their best player. We’ve haven’t played anybody with that size all year,” Horne said. “We’re going to have to do something to contain him. We’re going to have to block out and get a body on him at all times. Do some pump fake and get him in the air. Get him in some early foul trouble.

“My only senior starter is Cade Lockwood. He’s going to have to elevate his game, as will Kyle Brown. We’re going to have to have a good defensive game from Adam Perry.”