SPENCER — When the Class AA girls state basketball tournament gets under way at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the four-day event will feature one team which will be making its first appearance since 1999 and another which will be playing in the showcase for the first time in the school’s history.
“Never,” Roane County head coach Frank Farrar said. “We’re talking Roane County, Spencer or Walton. This will be the first time we’ve ever sent a girls or boys team to the state tournament.”
The No. 6 seeded Raiders (15-9) advanced to the Civic Center floor by virtue of a 58-46 victory over Clay County in the sectional finals and with a four-point, 35-31, win over Braxton County in the regional title tilt.
“We never thought we couldn’t win,” continued Farrar. “We played both of their during the regular season so we knew what we had to do to win.”
The No. 3 Cougars (22-2) had to eliminate a nemesis of their own en route to returning to the Mountain State’s capital.
“We got close last year, but Ritchie County beat us in the sectionals,” Lincoln head coach David Wray explained. “Beating them this year was a big moral boost for our girls.”
Lincoln swept into the state tournament with an 82-51 win over the Rebels in sectional play and then eliminated Philip Barbour from the post season with a 62-49 win in the regional championship game.
“We’ve played a very tough double-A schedule as well as six other games against triple-A teams,” continued Wray, who is in his eighth season at the helm of the Cougars.
It’s that experience the Lincoln head coach, and the fact that Roane County will be making its first-ever visit to the state tournament, will be counting on when his Cougars take to the hardwood at 9:30 a.m.
Experience may be the key, however.
Wray will start four juniors and a senior while Roane’s starting five includes two juniors and a sophomore as well as seniors Stephanie Cutlip and Jessica Roberts.
“We don’t have a lot of size and we don’t shoot the ball that well,” said Farrar. “But, we play very tough defense and we are hoping that will be enough to counteract their advantage in experience.”
Pacing Lincoln in the scoring column is junior Chelsea Holcomb (16.0 ppg) while seniors Shanna Akers (8.3), Ally Riley (5.4), Emily Cook (4.9) and Kayla Finch (13.0) round out the starting five.
The Raiders will counter with Cutlip (7.0) and Roberts (9.5), juniors Ashli Knotts (10.2) and Sammy Sloan (6.4) and sophmore Clarissa Pinson (9.0).
Should Farrar elect to go to his bench look for sophomores Kate Williams (6.0), Erica Ellison (1.9) and Brittany Armstead and Brittany Westfall (1.7) to see plenty of action.
Lincoln will counter with juniors Marisa Lane (5.3) and Breanna Flanagan (1.0) and freshman Kristy Akers (4.0) off the bench.
“Offensively, we are not very tall so we try to use our quickness to our advantage by spreading out the defense,” said Farrar. “Defensively, we like to zone press and apply good pressure. Because of our size we have to play a lot of zone against bigger teams and man against ones that are closer to our size.”
The winner of Wednesday’s opening game will advance to Friday’s semifinal round where it will take on the winner of Wednesday’s 1 p.m. encounter between No. 2 Winfield (23-1) and No. 7 Tolsia (17-8) at 9:30 a.m.