Not only will it mark a special occasion on the playing court, the Lee basketball and cheerleader seniors will be honored between games and national championship rings will be presented to the members of the women’s soccer team at halftime of the men’s game.
“Maroon Night” is planned and everyone wearing a maroon shirt will receive free ice cream as Mayfield Dairy will be on hand to serve up the delicious dessert. Also, the Southern State Athletic Conference plans a live audio and video stream of both games that can be viewed around the world. (Check ssacsports.com for more information). “We want to fill the arena,” said Lee Athletic Director Larry Carpenter.
Four evenly matched clubs will battle. It opens with the Lady Flames and Lady Hawks facing off at 6 p.m. The Lee and Shorter ladies are deadlocked at 12-2 in conference play. Overall, Shorter, ranked 25 by the NAIA, is 23-5 and Lee, ranked 13th, holds a 22-5 mark.
However, there is more to the story. The winner of the contest does not have the SSAC East regular-season crown wrapped up. Southern Poly, ranked No. 20, stands at 11-2 in league play. If the Lady Hornets whip Brewton-Parker and wins at Emmanuel on Saturday, they will likely end the regular season in a two-way tie with the Lee-Shorter winner. It appears a coin flip would then decide the regular-season title.
The Lady Flames will not only be seeking revenge, having lost at Shorter, 46-53, but will be looking to get back on track after last Thursday’s defeat at Southern Poly. “We’ve definitely got some things to fix before tournament time,” said coach Marty Rowe. “Shorter is playing well and will be looking to earn a share of the title. They are a balanced, well-coached team.”
The stakes might be even higher for the Lee men, ranked 14th. Coach Tommy Brown’s team dropped back-to-back games to Southern Poly, ranked 24th, and Mountain State, ranked 3rd, this past week. Shorter (22-6) is receiving votes in the NAIA and joins Emmanuel College in looking to move up in the final two NAIA rankings.
The Hawks, paced by Marquise Wright and Walter Hill, staged a late rally to stun the Flames 77-76 on Jan. 29 in Rome. “They are two of the best players in the NAIA,” said Brown. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Flames have already wrapped up the SSAC East regular-season title, but Brown is quick to point out it means very little. “Our conference receives only two automatic bids to the national tournament and they go to the SSAC tournament winner and runner-up,” stressed the coach. “This is why it is very important for us to defeat Shorter and remain high in the rankings, leaving the door wide open for a national tournament at-large bid. You never know what will happen in the tournament. There are a lot of teams capable of winning our tournament.”
The Flames and Hawks are almost equal when you compare stats. Lee is tops in the conference and third in the nation, holding opponents to under 38 percent shooting from the field. The Hawks are right behind. Lee is also the SSAC leader in field goal shooting (48 percent).