The Jefferson City Lady Jays have been regular participants in district basketball tournament championship games in recent seasons.
To get there this year, the Lady Jays are really going to have to earn it.
"We're a two-win ballclub, we're not the type of team that can take any game for granted," Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer said Sunday as Jefferson City prepared for tonight's Class 5 District 9 Tournament opener against the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Lady Tigers at Hickman High School.
"We understand what we have in front of us. We feel like we have a fighting chance to win this game, that's our focus. Our main focus is (tonight's) game, then you're playing with house money."
Jefferson City (2-23) is the No. 5 seed in the five-team event. Fourth-seeded Smith-Cotton has dropped its last four games and will bring a 12-13 record into the 6 p.m. contest.
Statistics show why the Lady Tigers finished a game under .500. Smith-Cotton averages 38.4 points per game, while giving up 35.6.
Jacqueline Greer (5-6, sr.) makes the Lady Tigers go on offense.
"She is their energy kid, she plays really hard," Meyer said. "She can hurt us in the transition game, so getting back is a big priority."
Smith-Cotton also has a potent 1-2 punch in sophomore Abby Knight (6-0) and senior Elena Sharp (5-10).
"We're going to have to account for where those two are," Meyer said.
The Lady Tigers run a patient attack on the offensive end.
"I don't think Smith-Cotton can kill us from the 3-point line," Meyer said. "But they do a very good job of moving the basketball around, looking for openings and create something from there. We're going to have to concentrate on our help defense."
Meyer said the Lady Tigers run a man-to-man defense a majority of the time.
"They like to put a lot of pressure on the ball, get in the passing lanes," he said. "We're going to have to move the basketball quickly and look to get some openings where we can penetrate the lane."
Tonight's winner will take on top-seeded Rock Bridge in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The girls title game is slated for 7 p.m. Friday.
There also will be a boys game today, with fourth-seeded Camdenton taking on fifth-seeded Smith-Cotton at 7:30 p.m.
The Jefferson City Jays are the No. 3 seed and open against second-seeded Rock Bridge at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Hickman will play the Camdenton-Sedalia winner at 6 p.m.
The boys title game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Helias Crusaders and Lady Crusaders are both seeded second in the Class 4 District 8 Tournament at Mexico and don't open play until Tuesday.
Who they play will be determined tonight in the six-team district.
On the girls side, Helias will face the winner of the No. 3 Mexico and No. 6 Marshall game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. On the boys side, Helias will meet either third-seeded Moberly or sixth-seeded Fulton at 9 p.m. Tuesday.