Keith MacPherson, Sports Editor
MUENSTER — It’s a familiar bus trip for Muenster.
Take Interstate 35 W south then cut west on Interstate 20. Proceed to Abilene.
The last stop on the trip is Abilene Christian University, the site of the Region II-1A girls basketball tournament, where Muenster will take on Goldthwaite at 3 p.m. today in the regional semifinals.
“The girls are used to the trip to Abilene,” said Lady Hornet coach Jason Atcheson, who has guided his team to five consecutive regional tournaments. “We’ve been here before.”
In fact, No. 7 state-ranked Muenster (29-5) has been to nine of the last 10 regional tournaments as well as two of the last three state tournaments. Last year the Lady Hornets fell in the Region II-1A final to Kerens 59-52.
Missing the state tournament by seven points a year ago might serve as extra motivation for most teams, but Atcheson said teams shouldn’t need an extra incentive this deep in the postseason.
“You’re motivated anytime you go,” he said. “When you’re one of the final 16 teams in the state and you have a chance to represent your school and community in Austin, you don’t really need more motivation. I think the girls want this just as bad as I do. Anytime you get a chance to go to Austin (for state), you give it your best shot.”
The Lady Hornets will have a tall task heading into the tournament. Muenster is the highest ranked team (No. 7) by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches out of the four teams and hold the best record -- No. 19 Goldthwaite (25-8), No. 17 Triple-A Academy (26-5) and No. 18 Hico (24-9).
The combination of the high ranking, regional final berth and the sparkling record makes the Lady Hornets the clear favorites heading into the tournament. While the Lady Hornets look superior on paper, Atcheson isn’t ready to book a room near the University of Texas campus just yet.
“I think everybody at this point is really good. You can’t over look anybody,” he said. “Goldthwaite has been there a lot. Hico coming down from 2A. Triple-A is always athletic. I guess on paper we’re the favorite but you have to go out there and perform.”
The winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of Triple-A Academy and Hico in the finals at noon Saturday at Moody Coliseum in Abilene.
The Lady Hornets got their first challenge since a Holiday Classic loss to Class 3A Gainesville in a 49-41 win over Sam Rayburn. The close game and added challenge Sam Rayburn served as a bit of a wakeup call for Muenster.
“Sam Rayburn is a very good team,” Atcheson said. “We had to bring our ‘A’ game to beat them. We knew going in that it would be a tough game. It’s nice to have a good, tight game where your starters can play meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter. It can only help you in games down the road when every game is like that.”
After losing four starters to graduation a year ago, many thought this would be the year the Lady Hornets’ regional streak would come to an end. Thanks largely to a strong core of eight seniors -- Lauren Rohmer, Kendi Bayer, Cedy Burnett, Michelle Sicking, Page Herr, Sydney Hutchton, Amber Walterscheid and Brooke Walterscheid -- Muenster is back.
“It’s a lot of fun (to be back in the regional tournament),” Atcheson said. “We have come to expect it in Muenster. It’s never easy, though. We graduated four starters and eight lettermen last year. This team has really come together. It’s never easy and it never gets old.”