Lady Rebels well-prepared for state’s No. 1 ranking

Lady Rebels well-prepared for state’s No. 1 ranking
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
In anticipation of his team possibly ascending to the No. 1 ranking in the Class 2A state girls’ basketball poll, Lyle LaRue was proactive.
It turned out to be time well-spent.
“I’d already talked to the girls about it today before the polls ever came out because I knew there was a chance it’d happen,” the Obion Central coach said after it became official that Rebel girls had supplanted former No. 1 Upperman in Monday’s new Associated Press listings.
“With the Internet and chat rooms and Facebook and all the social media nowadays, the word gets out there pretty quick. We’ve addressed it and just said, ‘Nothing’s changed as far as the big picture and our goals.’ Our preparation won’t change and, hopefully, our focus won’t either.”
The recognition is hardly a first for the tradition-rich OCCHS program, which was last atop the Class 2A hoop two years ago after halting the 55-game winning streak of reigning state champion Gibson County.
Before that, the Lady Rebels were also No. 1 — according to AP — in 2008.
And while acknowledging the added attention could be a distraction for his troops, who will surely now draw the best effort of its future opposition, LaRue also celebrated the attention given the program by a statewide vote of member writers and broadcasters from the Associated Press.
“It really is an honor,” said the Central skipper, whose team hammered league bottom-feeders Milan and Crockett County last week.
“We want to keep it as just that, though, and not get caught up in all the hoopla and conversation that can distract you when you’re in this position.
“And I haven’t seen anyone lay down for us yet. I think we’ve pretty much been getting everybody’s best shot all year. Actually, this time of the year, I’m more worried and focused on our effort than I am with everybody else’s.
“If we do the things we’re capable of and the things we constantly work on in preparation for games and opponents, we’ll be fine.”
Central (25-1), winners of 13 straight since its only loss of the year in a Florida holiday tournament and after opening the year with 12 consecutive victories, replaced Upperman atop the 2A heap after the Bees were edged by now-No. 2 Livingston Academy 40-39 on Friday.
The Lady Rebels collected 12 of 18 first-place votes cast by AP voters and accumulated 171 total points to LA’s 149. Upperman (24-2) fell to third.
Dyersburg, which will finish runnerup in District 13AA to OC, moved up two spots to eighth from last week and now sports a 23-4 mark with two of those losses coming vs. Obion Central.
The Rebel girls — who are seeking the program’s 14th state tournament trip in the 51-year history of the school — have already locked up the regular season District 13AA championship and have a 45-game league winning streak that dates back to 2009 with two games remaining in district play this season.
And that — along with the No. 1 standing — puts a bull’s-eye squarely on OC’s back, according to LaRue.
“Everybody wants to be who we were a few years ago when we went into Gibson County’s place and beat them and stopped their 50-something game winning streak,” the coach said. “We’ll continue to get everybody’s best shot.
“The really good news, I believe for us, is that going into this final regular season week, we’ll be facing a couple of really good opponents who will demand that our attention be on them, rather than anything else. Both Westview and Covington still have something to play for, and I expect them to both be good tournament-type games.”
OC plays at Westview tonight and at home Friday vs. Covington.
A complete poll listing can be found on page seven.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 2.7.12

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