From AC Athletics
Every year, it seems the women's Region XIV conference title goes through Athens.
The Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals, currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, have compiled quite the resume, including eight national championships dating back to 1994 – the most recent of which occurred in 2014.
Angelina College head coach Byron Coleman has faced the Lady Cards at least twice every season for the past 16 years – 12 as the Lady Roadrunners' head coach and four more as an assistant. He knows the quality of play his teams will face every time they square off against TVCC, and he's notched a few wins along the way.
This year just feels different, as if this may be the season the Lady Roadrunners could supplant the Lady Cardinals at the top of the standings. Heading into Saturday's showdown, both teams are 4-2 in conference play, and both teams are sporting nearly identical stats: AC scores at a 72.3 points-per-game clip, while the Lady Cards average 70.3 points per contest. Both teams average close to 40 percent shooting from the field, both teams hit on 28 percent of their three pointers and both team shoot close to 65 percent from the free-throw line. AC allows 55.4 points each game, while TVCC gives up just 56.4.
Looking at stats, it's hard to see much difference. The difference might just be right in the middle of the paint.
The Lady 'Runners' Natasha Mack leads the league in blocks, helping her team to a 7.0 blocks-per-game average – more than enough to keep AC (12-4, 4-2) at the top of the leaderboard in that category. The 6'4" Mack is swatting nearly six attempts per game, meaning opposing offenses have to shoot over or around her. Often, her blocks result in AC's specialty, the transition game, leading to layups on the other end.
The Lady Cardinals (14-2, 4-2) boast two players to match Mack's length: The 6'4" Dajah Daniel and the 6'3" Jada Wright. Neither of those players, however, are employed as much offensively as Mack is in the Lady Roadrunners' scheme.
Saturday's game will, of course, come down to how effective Mack can be both offensively and defensively, and how much help she'll get from her teammates. In last Saturday's loss to San Jacinto College, Mack was the only AC player to score in double figures. In Tuesday's loss at Jacksonville College, Mack finished with 18, Anjelica Darcus added 13 and Mia Williams contributed 12 – but AC allowed four Lady Jaguars to hit double digits.
No matter what happens this Saturday, it's a safe bet the two teams will see each other again come March, when the conference tournament again decides who makes the trip to the national tournament.
Maybe this year, the road to Lubbock will go through Lufkin instead of Athens.