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February 17, 2014

NORTHWEST REGIONAL TOURNEY PREVIEW: Five of state’s six No. 1 girls teams set to take stage at Wallace State

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CULLMAN — Class 3A

% No. 9 Madison Academy (25-9) vs. No. 5 Winfield (26-2), Thursday at 9 a.m.

% Good Hope (20-11) vs. No. 1 Lauderdale County (34-0), Thursday at noon

% Madison Academy: The 2011 3A state champions no doubt want make it back to Birmingham.

They are off to a good start in that regard, too.

Madison Academy cruised to an area crown with a pair of 37-point wins over Westminster Christian and West Morgan before ousting Mars Hill Bible by 20 in the sub-regional round. The Mustangs are a perennial “tough schedule” team, so that could help them as they prepare for this week’s matchups. Madison Academy split its season series with Holly Pond.

% Winfield: The Lady Pirates are hoping for a better semifinal showing than they've been able to muster the last three seasons. Tough draws are mostly to blame, however, with Lauderdale County (twice) and Madison Academy keeping Winfield from advancing in each instance. The Pirates — who've only lost to Cordova and 5A Muscle Shoals, both by six points or less — beat Danville 60-48 in Saturday's sub-regional. Katelyn Kostelc (26 points), Micaela Beck (15) and Barrett Ernest (10) accounted for almost all of the scoring.

% Good Hope: No Nina Mills? No Kayla Tillman? No problem.

The Raiders are back in the regional tournament for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons, thanks in part to a well-balanced squad that can flat out play defense.

Seniors Kacy Thomas, Kayla Scott and Katelyn Bishops score and provide key leadership, while Celest Whisenant and Kaylee Maddox have also played big roles in Good Hope’s success.

Coach Michael Oldcare’s squad grabbed its berth with a no-nonsense home win versus Hamilton, preceeded by a defensive gem against Danville.

% Lauderdale County: Back-to-back 3A state titles certainly haven’t bred any complacency for Brant Llewellyn’s program.

In fact, it seems to have made the Tigers better than ever.

Consider this fact — Lauderdale County has won all but two of its 34 games by at least 15 points. The closest its came to losing was a two-point affair to Woodland — the defending 2A girl title holders — back in December.

The Tigers eased into Tom Drake Coliseum with a 79-30 win over West Morgan. They’re riding a 38-game run. Lauderdale County edged Holly Pond in the 2013 state final.

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