The Kerens LadyCats open the playoffs Friday night with a much different path in their quest to get back to the state tournament in Austin.
A much more challenging one.
Standing in the way of the No. 5-ranked LadyCats are top-ranked Martin’s Mill (26-4), which beat Kerens in the state semifinals last year, and undefeated Martinsville (32-0), which is on the same side of the Region III-1A DI bracket as the LadyCats.
The good news for the LadyCats — they are playing their best basketball of the season entering Friday night’s area round playoff game against Grapeland at 6 p.m. at Fairfield High School.
Kerens (25-5) lost for the first time this calendar year last Saturday to Winnsboro 51-45 at the East Texas Playoff Preview. LadyCats starting guards Taylor Ames and Cambree Betts traveled on their own to Tyler for the game after taking the ACT college standardized test that morning.
Before that Kerens won 10 straight district games to win the 18-1A DI title.
But really, Kerens has had its sights set on the postseason since falling to Martin’s Mill 71-52 last March at the Frank C. Erwin Center in Austin.
“We’re ready to see what we can get done,” Kerens coach Denise Lincoln said. “I know I’m ready to see.
“It’s never the same from year to year. The playoffs are a whole new world. We’ve got a tough road ahead of us.”
Kerens has a tough task if it beats Grapeland on Friday night. There’s a potential regional quarterfinal matchup with 29-2 Slocum, which plays Harleton in the area round (Harleton beat Wortham 49-46 on Tuesday).
Then it’s likely to be undefeated Martinsville and Martin’s Mill ahead at the regional tournament Feb. 22-23 at Tyler Junior College.
Kerens and Martin’s Mill missed out on a rematch at the Brownsboro Tournament in December. The LadyCats’ players wanted the game then. Lincoln wanted to wait, hoping Kerens will get its chance in two weeks for another trip to Austin.
“Yes, we’re ready,” Lincoln said. “They wanted to play them in Brownsboro. “I said, ‘No, let’s save that for when we need it this most.’”
Frost girls ready for Blum: The Frost girls, ranked No. 10 in Class 1A DII, resume the playoffs Friday night with an area round game against Blum at 7 p.m. in Maypearl.
Frost (27-3) continues to use a balanced attack to pace their high scoring offense. Jae Moore and Jasymn Steels combined for 38 points in the Lady Polar Bears’ playoff opener against Irving Universal.
Frost has three losses, one to Kerens in the Kiwanis Classic championship game and two to 19-1A DII district champion and No. 7-ranked Coolidge by a total of four points.
Mildred boys can make playoffs: The Mildred boys can qualify for the playoffs with a win against Buffalo on Friday night in the 23-2A third-place game in Fairfield.
Mildred and Buffalo will play at 8 p.m., immediately after the Kerens-Grapeland girls playoff game.
Mildred and Buffalo split in the regular season. The Eagles won at home 66-56 in late January. Buffalo won at home 70-67 on Jan. 4.