Shooting for its first Overall Tournament victory in school history, the Prairie View Lady Spartans are matched against the Mt. Salus Christian Lady Eagles on Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the MAIS Overall Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.
Tuesday's other first round girls games include Class 1A state champion Claiborne Academy vs. Presbyterian Christian today at 3:30 p.m. and Madison-Ridgeland vs. Leake at 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Class 3A state champ Starkville awaits the Prairie View-Mt. Salus winner at 3 p.m., followed by Class 2A state champ Bowling Green vs. Class 1A runner-up Tri-County at 5:30.
The Overall Tournament brings the top three teams from Classes 1A, 2A and 3A together for a nine-team, single-elimination, season-ending tournament. Prairie View qualified by placing third in Class 2A, while Mt. Salus is the No. 3 seed from Class 1A.
Thus far, the Overall Tournament hasn't been kind to Prairie View, which is winless in its previous six appearances — 0-4 boys, 0-2 girls. Unlike their past two trips to the event, the Lady Spartans are favored in Tuesday's first round game.
"Mt. Salus may beat us, but there's a tremendous difference between 1A and 2A and there's some difference between 2A and 3A," Prairie View coach Ed Bain said. "Each class is a little more physical and tougher to play in."
Prairie View played a pair of 3A schools, Jackson Prep and Hillcrest Christian, in the Jackson Academy Double Header in January. Although the Lady Spartans lost both games, Bain says the experience helped prepare his team for postseason play.
"Taking that trip to Mississippi, I think, has made a difference for us," Bain said. "Claiborne was the only tough man-to-man team we've seen in Louisiana. All the teams in Mississippi play pretty good man-to-man and they're physical. Going to Jackson Academy helped us get acclimated to that style of play."
A first round victory would earn the Lady Spartans a date with an imposing Starkville squad on Wednesday.
"Starkville, Presbyterian Christian, Leake and Bowling Green are in a class by themselves," Bain said. "It's going to take an upset for one of the other teams to beat them. Any four of those teams could end up playing for the championship."
Prairie View has already played 1A state champion Claiborne and 2A state champion Bowling Green.
"If we can win this game (against Mt. Silas), we will have played all three state champions," Bain said. "I think that would help us for next year because we have a lot of kids coming back. To be the best, you have to play the best."
Qualifying for Overall for the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Lady Spartans defeated Simpson 40-36, lost to Leake 78-40 and downed Oak Hill 55-45 in the consolation finals last week in the Class 2A State Tournament.
Page 2 of 2 - Bain was especially pleased with the play of sophomores Sarah Cammarasana, Kaylah Hobbs and Amery Clark at Canton.
"We had some kids step up last week, especially those coming off the bench," Bain said. "Out of the eight players we play every game, all of them contributed at some point."
Prairie View's starting five consists of senior point guard Kristen Oliphant (8.6 points, 5 assists per game), junior guard Erika Guerrero (6.9 ppg, 2 steals), senior guard/forward Tori Simmons (9.9 ppg, 5.1 rebounds), junior forward Jay Hicks (6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and junior center Dani Anderson (12 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.0 blocks).
At the Class 1A State Tournament, Mt. Salus defeated Tallulah (49-36) and Deer Creek, lost to Tri-County (51-34) and upended Cenla Christian (61-52 in overtime) for third place.
Mt. Salus is led by Allie Sandifer and Anna Grace Govero.
"No. 34 (Govero) is a real good player. She's very athletic," Bain said. "Their post player, No. 32 (Sandifer) is pretty stout."