For the third time in four years, the LaGrange Lady Grangers will face off against Columbia High School in the state tournament.
In 2010, LaGrange lost to Columbia 67-40 in the semifinals of the Class AAA state tournament.
A year ago in a first-round game, Columbia handled LaGrange 78-52 on the way to a state championship.
Today, in the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament, LaGrange will try its luck against Columbia once again.
LaGrange (22-7) beat Stephens County in a first-round game on Tuesday, while Columbia (22-3) beat Pickens on Wednesday in its state opener.
LaGrange is a veteran team, and a number of the current seniors either started or saw significant playing time on the 2010 team.
Current seniors Brittany Tatum, Steara Mitchell, KaBrenna Smith, Breanna Grant, Daniell Dowell, Danielle Dowell and Tajah Banks were freshmen on that 2010 squad.
“I know these seniors are not ready for it be over with,” LaGrange head coach Jan Jones said. “Today will be a good day, or it could be an emotional day. The biggest thing is we have to go in and just settle down and play ball like we know how.”
A year ago, LaGrange headed to Columbia on the heels of a fourth-place finish in the region.
Columbia soared to a huge early lead, and it never looked back on the way to the first of five blowout victories in the state tournament.
“We went in (last year) thinking we had a game plan, and they jumped out on us,” LaGrange head coach Jan Jones said. “We really focused on that this week, things to do to eliminate that. Hopefully we have three or four things that if we do them, then we’ll be successful.”
Jones believes her team is in better shape than it was a year ago when it finished with a somewhat disappointing record of 16-13.
This team has played well down the stretch and has won a number of games against high-quality competition.
A week ago, LaGrange beat top-seeded Sandy Creek in the semifinals of the Region 5-AAAA tournament before losing to Fayette County in the championship game.
“We’re a lot better than we were last year,” Jones said. “So I’m definitely positive going into (today).”
LaGrange brings plenty of firepower into the game.
Leading the way is Tatum, a senior guard who is averaging 21 points per game and is the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Mitchell is averaging close to 15 points per game from her guard position, and Smith is scoring 13 points per game while providing an imposing presence in the paint.
Columbia, meanwhile, is going for its third state championship in four seasons, and it has put together another sensational season.
Still, Jones feels Columbia is a beatable team.
“If we’re going to get them, this year will have to be the year,” Jones said. “They’ve got a good team, but I don’t think they’re as good as they were last year. They’re still good. They always are. The biggest thing was, we saw some areas where we should match up with them. And there are some things strategically we can do to hopefully keep them on their toes.”
Jones is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year when Columbia charged out to the big lead in the opening quarter.
“The first and third quarters are going to be the biggest thing, to start out strong, and come out after the half strong,” Jones said.
Jones also said it’ll be critical to do “the simple things” well.
“You have to make your free throws, you have to make easy baskets. That’s a given,” Jones said. “You have to do those things.”
If LaGrange wins today, it would face either River Ridge or Chestatee in the semifinals next week.