When it dropped to SCISAA Class 2-A for the 2010-11 school year, Thomas Heyward Academy's girls basketball team saw it as an opportunity to become a legitimate state championship contender.
The third-ranked Rebels will get a chance to see exactly where they stand in that process tonight, as they take on defending state champion and top-ranked Bible Baptist at 6:30 p.m. in Ridgeland.
"I think we've both kind of had it circled on the calendar, to some degree," said Rebels coach Gary Mazzanna, who planned to watch the Braves take on Cathedral Academy on Monday.
Mazzanna said the Rebels (10-3 overall, 2-0 in SCISAA Region 1-AA) might hold a slight advantage in the post -- Kayla Canavan, Jamie Malphrus and Ashlie Layman all average at least nine points and five rebounds per game -- but he is worried about Bible Baptist's depth and the quickness of the Braves' guards.
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Going into Monday's game, star guard Ariel Martinez led the Braves (14-2 overall, 4-0 in SCISAA Region 1-AA) in scoring (18.4 points per game), rebounding (7.0 per game), assists (4.8 per game) and steals (5.2 per game).
It's the first of two meetings between the teams in the next 10 days. They play again Jan. 27 in Savannah.
"They've got the experience on us in the bigger games, winning the state championship last year and being No. 1 this year," Mazzanna said. "It will be fun. You want to have a big challenge, and you want to see where you stand."