We don’t have any control over anything else.
“‘If things work out and Josie gets eligible, she will help,” he added, “but we’ve been getting better with the players we have right now.”
If Soukup becomes eligible in time to play this week, Tupelo could go from being simply a threat for its first-ever girls conference tournament title to becoming an instant favorite. The Lady Tigers already have the area’s leading scorer in senior Katie Campbell; one of Class B’s best freshman classes in Shanna Davidson (Tupelo’s second leading scorer through six games), Chesna Henry and Grace Leland; a sophomore, Megan Bray, who is in her second season as a starter; and veteran leadership in seniors Campbell and Ari Rice and junior Lindsey Davidson.
If Soukup joins the group he already has assembled, Davis could put one of the quickest teams in all of Class B on the floor later this season.
“I don’t know yet how good this team can be,” Davis said. “If they continue to work like they are, they’re potentially a state tournament team. We’ll know later in the year.
“We could play Konawa (No. 3 in Class 2A) and Varnum (No. 4 in Class B) in the S.T.A.R. Tournament (in late January at Stonewall), we go to Sasakwa next month, and we could play Stonewall and Vanoss this week, so we should know a lot more before the playoffs start,” he added. “We were in the area tournament last year, and I feel like this team has a chance to be better than that team.”
The Pontotoc Conference Tournament, which runs Monday through Saturday, is one of three tournaments involving area teams during a huge fourth week of the 2007-2008 season.
Coalgate and Savanna will host the first Southeastern Shootout at the McAlester Expo Center Thursday through Saturday, and Stratford will be in the field at the Big 8 Conference Tournament at Dibble Monday through Saturday.
Non-tournament action this week will be highlighted by Tuesday’s showdown at Konawa between girls teams ranked No. 3 (Konawa) and No. 12 (Latta) in Class 2A; Coalgate’s visit to Tishomingo Tuesday; and Byng traveling to Bethel Tuesday and hosting Little Axe Friday.
But the biggest gathering of area teams this week will be in Tupelo, where the Pontotoc boys bracket could feature a battle of unbeatens in Saturday’s championship game between Tupelo and Roff (if Roff survived Saturday’s showdown with Class B No. 8 Red Oak and can handle Stonewall in Friday’s semifinals) and the girls bracket figures to come down to the top three seeds and the winner of Tuesday’s 4-5 rematch (at 7:40 p.m.) between Allen and Calvin.
“I think any one of the top four teams can win it,” Davis said. “It just comes down to who puts three good games together.
“Allen (which was upset by Calvin Friday night) is young but they’re really deep,” he added. “Vanoss and Stonewall have more mature teams. I think it’s going to be really exciting. We’re just glad it’s at home.”
Monday’s opening-day schedule begins with a 1-8 girls contest between Vanoss and Asher at 5 p.m., and the top-seeded Tupelo Tigers (the defending champion) will open play on the boys side at 6:20 against Wanette. The other Monday games will have the Tupelo girls facing Wanette at 7:40 and the third-seeded Stonewall boys facing No. 6 Asher at 9 p.m.
Tuesday’s action begins at 5 p.m. with a 2-7 girls contest between defending tourney champ Stonewall and Roff, and Allen and Calvin will meet in a 4-5 girls showdown at 7:40. Roff, the No. 2 seed on the boys side, will play seven seed Calvin at 6:20, and the first round will end with a 9 p.m. contest between No. 4 seed Allen and No. 5 Vanoss.
Loser’s bracket games will be played Wednesday, the girls semifinals will be held Thursday, and the boys semifinals begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The championship game for the girls will be at 6 p.m. and the boys title game is due to begin at 7:30 Saturday.
Campbell, who averaged 17 points per game last season and has been one of the area’s best players since her freshman year at Byng, is in her third year as a starter at Tupelo and averaged 25 points through the Lady Tigers’ first six games. She also had a rare triple-double (29 points, 10 rebounds, 10 steals) earlier this season in a victory over Asher.
“She’s done everything I’ve needed her to do, and she and Ari (Rice) have been doing a great job of leading,” said Davis, who, in addition to being Campbell’s coach, is also her stepfather. “They’ve been patient with our younger players, and they’ve been working to make them better.
“I’ve been impressed with Ari’s play this year,” he added. “She hasn’t scored a lot of points, but she might be our second leading rebounder (eight per game). That’s impressive, because she’s five-foot-nothing, and about five of her rebounds every game have been on the offensive end.”
Shanna Davidson has been the area’s best freshman girls players so far this season season and already has two double-doubles in her first six varsity games.
“She’s a great athlete (the 5-9 Davidson was also a pitcher, Campbell’s back-up at shortstop and the leadoff hitter on Tupelo’s state tournament fast-pitch softball team this fall), and she jumps higher than anybody I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Davis said. “We were worried about her toughness because she’s a freshman, but she’s been getting in there and banging. The good thing about her is that she’s getting more confident every game.”
Bray and Lindsey Davidson were both role players for Tupelo last season as Pearce and Campbell carried most of the scoring load, but Davis said they are being asked to assume a bigger role in the offense this year.
“Megan is playing a little different role this year — she’s having to shoot a little more and score a little more, but she’s getting used to it,” Davis explained. “We’re not overly big, and this year Lindsey and Chesna (Henry) can split time on the other team’s big people, and that really helps out.”
We don’t have any control over anything else.