Hopkins County teams continue playoff run tomorrow
By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor
Feb. 15, 2007 - One game at a time. That's the mantra three Hopkins County coaches are taking as they attempt to move their teams further down the girls basketball playoff brackets.
Tomorrow, the three teams from North Hopkins, Saltillo and Yantis will all be playing in the area round of the playoffs. Each coach knows that it all boils down to how well their teams play that particular game as to whether they will advance.
"It's not a formality," said Saltillo coach Garry Davison, whose team is playing Tenaha. "We've got to step up and play and get after it if we want to keep playing."
North Hopkins, the District 18-A, Div. I champion, is taking on the second-place team out of District 19-A. But, don't be fooled.
LaRue LaPoynor finished as the runner-up, but that's because the district champion was Martins Mill, the No. 1-ranked team and defending state champions.
In fact, when the Lady Panthers meet LaPoynor at 6 p.m. Friday in Quitman, it will be North Hopkins (17-13) who will be the underdog. That's because LaPoynor has the better record (24-6) and a No. 12 state ranking.
From what North Hopkins head coach Tim Menke has seen, the teams are pretty even.
"I've scouted them twice, and they've got a pretty good inside game and they shoot OK from the outside," Menke said. "But, we've been playing a lot better than we did early in the year. If we play well, it's a winnable game for us.
"I look for it to be a pretty close game."
The Lady Panthers had senior forward Sabra Thomas average 17 points per game, including a career-high 19 points, in a four-game span near the end of the season that helped them elevate their play. North Hopkins won its last eight games, including a playoff for the district championship against Quinlan Boles.
Senior guard Ebbonye Johnson and junior guard Jessi Mannis carried most of the scoring load this season, and now with Thomas scoring more, it gives the Lady Panthers an added dimension.
LaPoynor has three solid players of their own, an athletic post and a pair of guards who can shoot from the outside.
It is the post that gives Menke the most concern because she is athletic enough to get a rebound, go basket-to-basket, and she makes her free throws when fouled.
The Flyers will press three-quarters court, trap in the half court and play a 2-3 zone.
"We've had a full week of practice against what they do," Menke said. "Now, we're just concerned about what we do and making sure we do it well."
The winner of the game takes on the winner between Yantis and Mount Enterprise in the regional quarterfinals.
The Lady Lions have put together a 24-game winning streak, a 27-1 record and a No. 11 state ranking. It all gets put to the test on Friday when they play Tenaha at 6 p.m. in Gladewater.
The winner of the game gets No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Kennard in the next round of the Class A, Div. II playoffs.
But, first things first, said Davison.
"We can't take anything for granted," Davison said, "and I don't think we will. We've gotten to where we are by playing hard and being prepared, and I think our girls know that."
The Lady Lions are prepared for an athletic Tenaha team that will press full court and then fall back into a zone with girls standing 5-10 and 6-0 on the back line.
"I think they're going to try to out-athlete us," he explained. "They want to make it a full-floor game, and that's OK because we can play that style. If we can get past the first line of their pressure, we can get some 3-on-2 breaks and some easy baskets."
The Lady Lions are also not without playoff experience. They made it to the regional quarterfinals last season and have their entire team back. They also have two additional starters in 6-2 junior Stephanie Methe and 5-7 senior Bekah Rogers.
They team with last year's Co-District MVPs senior Chloe Roberts and junior Winter Stevens to give Saltillo a team that is unusually deep and versatile for a Division II squad.
"We've had a really good week of practice," Davison said. "We even went up against the boys team so we could get some practice in against good, quick athletes. Our boys are more athletic than any girls we'll face."
Tenaha finished second in its district behind Karnack, a team that Saltillo whipped 80-43 in a warm-up game on Monday.
"Just because we beat Karnack doesn't mean anything," Davison said. "We've got to come ready to play on Friday."
Yantis is coming off one upset win on Tuesday. The Lady Owls will attempt to duplicate that feat on Friday.
Yantis (15-13), the third-place team out of District 18-A, Div. I, will take on Mount Enterprise, the 20-A champion, at 7 p.m. Friday in Big Sandy.
Yantis is coming off a 47-43 victory over Simms James Bowie in the bi-district round of the Class A, Div. I playoffs on Tuesday. It was the Lady Owls' first time to qualify for the playoffs in 17 years.
Senior Jamie Snider put in 17 points and came up with eight steals for the Lady Owls in their victory. Yantis depends on a scrappy defense and attacking offense.
If Yantis wins, it will set up a regional quarterfinal game against the LaPoynor-North Hopkins winner next week.
In other area games:
Winnsboro, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A, will take on Aubrey at 7 p.m. Friday in Greenville. Winnsboro will be trying for its first state championship in 2A after winning three in Class 3A.
Cooper takes on Gunter at 7 p.m. today in Royse City. The winner gets to play the winner between Winnsboro and Aubrey.
One of the best match-ups should be in Emory when No. 8 Mount Vernon plays No. 10 Kaufman in the Class 3A are around. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday.
In Class 4A, North Lamar (24-8), the 11-4A runner-up, will take on District 10-4A champion West Mesquite (29-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rockwall High School. Mount Pleasant, the No. 10-ranked team and 11-4A champion, plays Lake Dallas at 8 p.m. Friday in Wills Point.