Fairview (24-4) is back to defend its title despite losing three starters from last year's state championship club.
Even though only two starters return, the Lady Jackets are an experienced team..
“We played nine girls last year pretty much every game,” Fairview coach Mike Barton said.
Olivia Mason, the Lady Jackets 6-0 senior guard, has averaged a double-double in points and rebounds during the playoffs, including a 21-point and 20-rebound game against Snyder in the regional tournament.
Last year, Mason returned to the Fairview lineup after suffering a compound fracture during softball season in time to help the Lady Jackets win a state championship.
That same storyline is developing this season with her sister, Sadie Mason, who has returned from a knee injury and started her first game of the season in the area tournament finals.
“She was a big key for us last year in the state tournament,” Barton said of the 6-0 sophomore.
Barton said this year's Fairview club is a different team from last year's state title squad.
“We have some size but we are not quite as physical,” he said. “We push the ball more with Olivia being healthy.”
DEFENSE DRIVES DALE
Dale returns to the state tournament even though this year's squad may not be as athletic as past Lady Pirate squads which won state titles.
Dale likes to play a half-court game and win primarily with defense.
“We're about trying to contest every single shot,” said Dale coach Josh Forsythe. “That's just what we have to do.”
Dale is 27-1 on the season and in its only loss to Bethel, the Lady Pirates shot just 16 percent from the field. Still, they forced the game into double overtime because of their defense.
“The ball doesn't always go in the basket but we always can play defense and contest,” Forsythe said.
The Lady Pirates defeated defending state champion Fairvew, 54-51, in the area finals.
Offensively, Dale is led by senior forward Breck Clark, who is averaging 20 points per game.
INJURIES HIT NORTHEAST
Top-ranked Northeast is 27-0 but limping entering the state tournament.
“I had five injuries in the regional tournament,” Northeast coach Londaryl Perry said.
Two players — Maximina Gonzalez and Singanice Archer — may have suffered serious knee injuries and will have MRIs this week, he said.
Perry doesn't know if either will be available for Thursday's opening game of the state tournament. As of Sunday, Northeast was down to eight healthy players.
“That puts me in a little bind,” he said. “I am keeping my fingers crossed, toes too.”