It’s tournament time again for the Lady Hornets. Just like they did before Thanksgiving, and before and after Christmas, the Huntsville girls are gearing up for a weekend of tournament basketball.

This time, though, the stakes are much higher than they were when the Lady Hornets hit the road for Conroe, Corsicana and Bryan-College Station. And this time, the Lady Hornets have no room for error. They play Houston Washington, the District 20-4A champs, tonight for a spot in the Region III tournament, scheduled Friday and Saturday at Cy-Fair’s Berry Center.

If Huntsville (15-15) gets past Houston Washington, it will play Crosby, a 59-49 winner Wednesday over Lumberton. The winner of Friday’s regional semifinal game plays again Saturday at 4 p.m. with a spot in the state tournament on the line.

“We’re all kind of nervous,” junior guard Jaleesa Thomas said Wednesday. “We don’t want to go home and we don’t want to disappoint anybody. ... We want to support our school and do our best.”

Already, the Lady Hornets have exceeded everyone’s expectations this season. Picked for a middle-of-the-pack finish in 18-4A, Huntsville scrapped its way to a share of the district title. Thanks to a winning coin flip, the Lady Hornets advanced to the postseason as the league’s top team.

Last week, Huntsville stormed past Houston Sterling 57-44 in an area-round playoff game. Destini Henderson scored a game-high 21 points, Thomas added 18, while Nicole White and Chantal Betts each had six. Scottie Ward scored four points for HHS.

Tonight, the Lady Hornets probably face their toughest test to date, the Lady Eagles of Houston’s Booker T. Washington.

Washington rolled undefeated (12-0) through District 20-4A play. Coach Sylvia Anderson’s Lady Eagles (20-9 overall) edged Willis 58-55 last week in an area game.

Huntsville coach Mia Cook has seen the Lady Eagles in person this year, and she’s got a videotape of one of their recent contests. According to the Huntsville coach, tonight’s game should be a good one for the fans.

“We match up with them very, very well,” Cook said. “They can run the floor, but so can we. The key to this game will be playing both sides of the court. Transition defense is going to make the difference because they have two players who can really get up and down the floor.

“We’ve got to be on our toes, we’ve got to play good defense, we’ve got to play both sides of the ball and we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Washington has a multi-talented team, according to Cook. The Lady Eagles are led by sophomore point guard Korean Davenport, and the dangerous duo of Chelsea and Marion Jones.

It’s going to be hard, Cook says, to slow down the Lady Eagles. But it’s not going to be impossible.

“When they’re not making their shots, they will take it to the rack,” Cook said of the Lady Eagles. “They try to push the ball up the floor anytime they can, so we’ve got to control the ball on their end of the floor. We can’t just trade baskets with them. We’ve got to play good defense and block out.”

Cook said she has done a little research, and unless she’s mistaken, the Lady Hornets could do something this weekend no other Huntsville girls team has ever done: reach the regional finals. Two more wins and they’re there, but the Lady Hornets are only thinking about tonight’s game against Washington.

“The goal right now is to make history for Huntsville High School,” Cook said. “The girls are reaching out and accomplishing the goals they’ve set for themselves. Before this season, these girls were highly underestimated, and look where they’re at now.”

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