The only sure thing about this week’s Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic might be the fact that, no matter what else happens, four of Oklahoma’s top girls basketball teams are going to absorb their first losses of the season before the tournament ends Saturday night.

With five unbeaten teams — Tulsa Union, Cache, Preston, Howe and Kiowa — in an outstanding field of eight for this year’s Mid-America, something obviously has to give on the way to the championship game (scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday).

Tulsa Union (2-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 6A) is the tournament’s top seed, and the Lady Redskins have a little bit of history on their side.  Mustang, the only 6A representative at the last two renewals of Oklahoma’s longest-running and most prestigious girls basketball tournament, won in both 2005 and 2006, and Union is the lone member of the state’s largest classification in this year’s field.

But Cache (8-0 and ranked No. 2 in 4A) was the tournament runner-up last season and has one of Oklahoma’s most exciting players in junior Taylor Thompson, Preston (7-0 and No. 1 in Class A) has the state’s highest-scoring offense (at 94 points per game), Howe (9-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class A) has the second most wins in the tournament field, and Kiowa (12-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class B) is the winningest team in the tournament and, like Howe, hasn’t really been tested so far this season.

Union, which had four of its first six games cancelled due to the ice storm that hit northern and central Oklahoma earlier this month, was 19-7 and just missed the 6A state tournament in March.  Coach Jim Stacy returned all five starters from that club, and, after opening the season ranked anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5, the Lady Redskins jumped all the way to No. 2 after easy wins in their first two games.

Coalgate, the only local representative in this year’s Mid-America (after the Lady Wildcats joined Ada and Stonewall in last year’s field), will play the role of David to Union’s Goliath Thursday’s second opening-round game (at 4:30 p.m.).  Jim Jenson’s squad   -- a semifinalist in Class 2A the past two seasons -- opened the season ranked near the bottom of the Class 3A top 10 but comes into the Mid-America ranked anywhere from 12th to 17th after losing four of its first nine games.

Two of the other three games Thursday match unbeaten teams, with Howe (the 2007 Class A runner-up) meeting Cache (a 4A semifinalist last season) at 6:30 p.m. and Preston (runner-up in 2A last season) facing Kiowa (a Class B semifinalist in 2006 and 2007)at 8 p.m. to wrap up the first day’s action. 

In the tournament opener (at 3 p.m.), Okarche (8-1 and ranked No. 4 in Class A) will meet Verdigris (3-4 and ranked No. 11 in Class 3A) in a battle of teams who made the state tournament in their respective classes last season.

Okarche coach Cherie Meyers won the consolation crown at the 2004 Mid-America and took her 2006-2007 club to a surprising berth in the Class A semifinals despite a 16-12 record, while Verdigris coach Gary Kennimer will be making his first appearance at the tournament after attending the late-December event every years since he began coaching in 1986.

Gates open at 2 p.m. for the afternoon session (first game at 3 p.m.) each day and at 5:30 p.m. for the evening games (which start at 6:30).  Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students are valid for all games on the day they are purchased.  A tournament pass will be available for $12 on Thursday and will be good for admission to all games during the week.

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