The Glenwood and Lee-Scott girls basketball teams have made the AISA Class 3A state championship game their own little party for the past three seasons.
Tuscaloosa Academy is crashing the party this season. The Lady Knights upset Lee-Scott in the semifinals on Saturday and will face Glenwood on Monday night at 6 p.m. at the Montgomery Multiplex.
"It is always fun to play your rival," Glenwood coach Julie Humphries said Sunday prior to practice. "The atmosphere is always crazy, and it will be weird not playing them. But it will be just as much of a challenge for us.
"I am sure the girls were expecting to play Lee-Scott, but we need to make sure we are focused. Tuscaloosa Academy is a very good team, which is much improved. They are playing some really good basketball."
Glenwood, 24-8, has already beaten Tuscalooa twice this season. The first time was at home, 46-23, on Jan. 9. The second time came less than two weeks ago, 48-40 in the Region 1 tournament.
Beating a team three times in one season can be difficult.
"We have faced this a number of times over the years," Humphries said. "And you have to be mentally tough and contain your emotions."
Glenwood is looking for its third straight state championship -- Lee-Scott won the first of the three straight state title game meetings with Glenwood -- and seventh overall. Humphries has led the Lady Gators to four of the titles as she won in her first two seasons in 2007 and '08.
With only one senior and with an 8th-grader in the starting lineup, Humphries said she knew her team would take some lumps early in the season.
"With our youth and inexperience, I knew we would take our losses early," she said. "But I also knew there was a possibility we could find out way back to this point again."
Along with youth and inexperience, the Lady Gators have faced some adversity. Point guard Whitley Anderson broke her collarbone in a care accident prior to the season. She didn't return until late January. And Morgan Grant missed almost two weeks with an injury.
Grant and Audrey Crowe are the team's leading scorers and rebounders. Crowe was the spark in last year's state title game as she scored 10 of her 15 points in the first quarter.
The other starters are Teri Hodge, the lone senior, and Katie Suarez, an eighth-grader.
Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, Follow Kevin on Twitter@lesports