Both the boys and girls MHSAA Region 4-4A tournament this week should make for an intriguing bracket, Northeast Lauderdale boys and girls head coach Lewis Lightsey said.
Northeast Lauderdale High School is hosting both the boys and girls tournament, with the opening round taking place on Tuesday, the semifinals on Thursday and the championship games on Friday.
In the girls’ draw, West Lauderdale (3-21, 0-10) will take on Leake Central (16-6, 6-4) at 4 p.m. Tuesday for the right to play one of the state’s best in Choctaw Central (24-4, 10-0), and Northeast Lauderdale (14-11, 4-6) will play Kosciusko (16-9, 3-7) at 7 p.m., with winner moving on to play Louisville (17-7, 7-3).
With five of the six teams sporting winning overall records, Lightsey said to expect some competitive matchups.
“On the girls side, there are some really good teams,” he said. “Even though Choctaw Central went through (the district) undefeated, there’s going to be some exciting basketball this week.”
The Lady Trojans split their two meetings with the Lady Whippets, winning by two points on Jan. 14 and losing by one on Jan. 31. Lightsey said that after two close games, the third ultimately boils down to psychological preparation.
“We did a lot of our physical work early in practice, then did our mental work of fine-tuning plays or scouting plays (Kosciusko) did, because when they’re one- and two-point games like that, every possession is so valuable, so you want to make sure you’ve dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts.”
In the boys’ bracket, Choctaw Central (18-10, 6-4) and West Lauderdale (4-23, 0-10) will square off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, with the winner playing Leake Central (14-7, 6-4), while Kosciusko (22-4, 10-0) awaits to the winner of Louisville (13-8, 5-5) and Northeast Lauderdale (13-8, 5-5), which will start Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be a really good tournament on the boys side,” Lightsey said. “Kosciusko went through the district undefeated but there were a lot of really close games. Even though West is the No. 6 seed, they’re playing a lot better right now, so I really think it’s wide open.”
The Trojans lost by one point in both of their regular-season bouts with the Wildcats. Twelve of Northeast’s 19 different opponents this year are headed to the state tournament, and Lightsey said the tough competition was a good precursor to the postseason.
“We’ve played an extremely hard schedule to get us ready for this point,” he said. “We did everything we could to prepare them for this moment. We hit some stretches this season where we didn’t win as many games as we wanted to, but we felt like playing the hard games and the hard teams prepared us to do well for this time because our district is so deep.”