Published 12:02 am Saturday, February 23, 2013

Straughn's Katelyn Kinsaul (5), Janelle Nurse (1) and Opp's Savannah Gerber (1) try for the ball during an earlier contest this season. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Katelyn Kinsaul (5), Janelle Nurse (1) and Opp’s Savannah Gerber (1) try for the ball during an earlier contest this season. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

The road to play in Birmingham next week will run through county rivals Straughn and Opp today at the Class 3A Girls South Regional Championship in Dothan.

SHS and OHS beat Abbeville and Daleville, respectively, in the regional semifinals on Thursday to set up the rematch. The Lady Tigers beat AHS 48-29, while the Lady Bobcats won over DHS, 41-30.

Today’s game, which will tip off at 3:40 p.m., will mark the fifth time the two teams have played each other. Straughn won all four previous contests against the Lady Bobcats in area action, during the regular season and the post season.

Players from both teams said Friday that they are pumped about the opportunity to play each other one more time this season.

“We’re really excited to get a chance to play again on Saturday,” SHS senior Taylor Wood said. “We’ve been saying that the whole time. We don’t care who we play, just as long as we play Saturday.”

Opp senior Nisha Stoudemire said losing four times to the same team is enough to get the team ready for today’s game.

“Just knowing that they beat us four times is motivation within itself for me and the whole team,” Stoudemire said.

From a coaching stand point, SHS coach Scott Kinsaul said the chance to go to Birmingham for the state finals should be enough to get the girls up for a game of this magnitude.

“I told them (Friday), this isn’t the fifth time we’ve played them, this is the first time we’ve played them,” Kinsaul said. “The other four times don’t mean anything. We’re going to take it like it’s the first time we’re going to play them this year.

“If you can’t get up for a chance to get to Birmingham, you need to check your pulse,” he said.

Opp’s pulse right now is staying focused on what’s mattered to the team this season, Lady Bobcats coach SaRhonda Dickerson said.

“We keep focused on our basics and our defense,” Dickerson said. “We’re trying to stay focused and not get caught up in the hype.”

Straughn and Opp’s last meeting took place in the Class 3A, Area 2 championship about 12 days ago.

On that Monday night, the Lady Bobcats and Lady Tigers kept the game below 50 on both sides of the scoreboard. SHS eventually won the game, 37-28, to claim its area crown.

Dickerson said she feels like the girls learned a lot about themselves from that loss.

“I think I feel like the girls, especially the last game, realize that Straughn is beatable,” she said. “We lost by nine and missed 22 layups, and had 18 turnovers, which was probably more than that. We outrebounded them. It’s rare that you outrebound somebody and lose.”

Mariah Bonham, a senior for Straughn, said the Lady Bobcats like to play a competitive game.

“It’s just like playing other teams, but you’ve got to be more competitive,” Bonham said. “They want to beat us so bad.”

Stoudemire she thinks Straughn will stick to its same game plan.

“If you’re going to play a team four times already, both of us will know what they’re going to do already,” she said.

When Straughn’s girls entered the Dothan Civic Center on Thursday, they were taken back a little with nerves, Wood said.

However, the Lady Tigers’ approach to the game is that it’s another game, the senior said.

“That’s what we kept telling ourselves (Thursday),” Wood said. “We walk in and we were like oh my goodness, it’s such a big arena. When you think about it, it’s just another basketball game and no matter what the size of the arena, it’s the same basketball court.”

Kinsaul added that the girls are prepared and ready.

“I think it’s kind of fortunate we’re playing somebody we know when you’re one day in between games,” he said. “We didn’t have to spend a lot of time on film in order to prepare and break down their offense either. We’re kind of fortunate to be playing somebody we already know.”