Trinity teams ready for South State Tournament

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — Columbia Academy is an unfamiliar opponent for Trinity Episcopal this season.

Yet, the Lady Saints already know what to expect from the Lady Cougars in the second round of the MPSA South AA Tournament tonight.

That’s because it’s pretty much the same thing the Saints do themselves.

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“They run a half-court man-on-man defense, they like to run the floor and get transition baskets,” coach Richy Spears said. “We both like to get up and down the floor. We’re going to try our best to press and play tough defense and hopefully get some baskets off turnovers — the same thing they’re going to try to do.”

Spears said he prefers to play a team with a similar style to his.

He said he’s more comfortable running his team up and down the court than forcing them to slow down, something the Lady Saints aren’t used to doing.

Trinity’s speed is one of its best attributes, Spears said.

“We want to push the ball up the floor,” Spears. “We’re at our best when were running. I play about 7 or 8 girls, and all of them can run.”

Spears said he’s seen a vast improvement in his team since the beginning of the season.

Early in the year, the Lady Saints were relying on one or two people for the majority of the scoring.

Now, they’re spreading the wealth.

“Everybody has gotten some confidence lately, and that’s good,” Spears said. “Some people have stepped up here lately and made some outside shots.

“I’ve got five girls that can score in double figures at any time. We have Caroline (Ketchings) and (Madeline) Cross, but we also have M.C. (Iles) and (Leslie) Pomeroy and Bethany (Ogden) — everybody is shooting well now.”

Spears said he’s also seen the Lady Saints step up their defensive intensity, which has helped them reach the No. 2 spot in District 3 and the 21-13, 6-2 record.

“That’s what I strive on is defense. That’s what I preach,” Spears said. “Some of them have gotten some experience that they didn’t have before, and that’s helped. Even Danielle (Givens) and Sidney (McLeod) down low, they’ve improved more than anybody over the year as far as intensity and scoring ability.”

Columbia, the No. 2 team in District 4, defeated Silliman Institute to move on to the second round against Trinity, which had a first-round bye.

Spears said the Lady Saints played a lot of top teams — including some AAA schools — to better prepare for the postseason.

He knows it won’t be an easy road. If Trinity wins, the Lady Saints will play the winner of Oak Forest and Simpson Academy.

“Oak Forest finished second in the state last year, and they didn’t lose anybody. Nobody’s been within 20 (points) of them in a while. It’s going to be tough.”

The Trinity boys also get underway in the South State tournament today, taking on Oak Forest at 5:15 p.m.

The Saints sport a sterling 26-7 record and won the District 3-AA championship, but face a must win tonight.

The winner of tonight’s game advances to the State Tournament while the loser’s season is over.

“At this time of the season, everybody is 0-0,” Trinity coach David King said. “We’ve preached to the players that this is the go home time of the season, and hopefully the kids will respond.”

King said Oak Forest is a team that has improved a lot throughout the season and is playing its best basketball right now.

“They’re very athletic and a hot team right now,” King said of the Yellow Jackets. “They played in the championship game of their district tournament and they beat Columbia in a mild upset in the first round of the South State Tournament.”

King said his senior players have taken charge and are doing their best to rally the team this week.

“Our seniors have really had us focused in practice,” King said. “We’ve had some good practice sessions this week.”

There will also be some payback on the minds of the Saints players.

Oak Forest was the team that knocked Trinity out of the football playoffs, and the basketball team wants to return the favor.

“All but one of the basketball players played football, and Oak Forest ended our season,” King said. “We’ve discussed that a little bit. Any bit of motivation helps.”