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By GOOSE LINDSAY
When the Oliver Springs Lady Bobcats open play today in the TSSAA Class A State Tournament they will be taking on a familiar foe in perennial state power Clarkrange.
Wednesday’s match-up against the Lady Buffaloes will be the fifth time the two teams have met in the past three years. Clarkrange holds a 3-1 advantage in those meetings, but Oliver Springs picked up the biggest of those four wins last year with a 42-40 victory in the opening round of the state tournament.
“I think it definitely helps us,” Lady ‘Cat head coach Michelle Christopher when asked about play-ing a familiar foe. “We’ve scrimmaged these girls all the way back to middle school and they’re always really tough, but we know what it takes to beat them.”
Christopher knows that beating the Lady Buffaloes will take a monumental effort. Led by post player Tasha Phillips, Clarkrange is a team without many flaws.
“We expect them to shoot a lot of threes and they have a great inside game with Phillips,” Christo-pher said. “Plus they play great defense so we’ll have to play well.”
In fact, Oliver Springs already knows what will happen if they don’t play well as the Lady Buffaloes hammered the Lady ‘Cats, 62-31, in the third round of play in the Mid-South Classic in December. While that game didn’t go well, it was the third game in three days for the Lady ‘Cats and Coach Christopher believes fatigue was definitely a factor.
“The girls know they played poorly in that first game,” Christopher said. “Our legs were gone and we had no intensity. We live and die by our defensive intensity. When we play them this time we will have fresh legs and hopefully we’ll be motivated. These girls don’t like to get beat. For us to win we’ve got to defend and rebound plus we’ve got to execute offensively.”
Besides having fresh legs, Christopher believes her team is confident. Last year, the Lady ‘Cats ad-vanced to the state title game before falling to Gleason and Oliver Springs’ main goal this year is fin-ishing the run this year.
“I feel they’re ready to play,” Christopher said. “They got to the state championship last year and came up short. They feel they’ve still got something to prove and they’re ready to get the state championship.”
In preparation for playing at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, the Lady ‘Cats practiced Monday at Tennessee’s Thompson-Bowling Arena and they practiced Tuesday at Tennessee Tech’s Eblen Center.
“That helps us with the depth perception of shooting,” Christopher said. “It also gives us the feel of playing in an arena and defending on a big floor.”
The Lady ‘Cats (25-8) play Clarkrange (30-6) at 3 p.m. Wednesday. A victory in that game would set up a semifinal match-up with the winner of Middleton (31-1) and Bradford (26-6) Friday at 1:30 p.m.