“We’ve still got a shot,” said Francis, whose Lady Indians (28-7) travel to take on Region 2-AAA champion Oak Ridge (32-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. “(Traveling) just gives us a little more gravel in our road. We’re going to have a little bit harder road, but not that much. We can still go down there and win.
“I looked back through history, and 30-40 percent of teams win the road sectional game. So it’s not something that’s insurmountable.”
D-B made this same trip in 2016, losing a tough 39-32 decision.
The winner earns a berth in next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro.
In another area sectional game, Science Hill (30-3) hosts Maryville (30-3). The Lady Hilltoppers are 12-0 at home this season.
ABOUT OAK RIDGE
The Lady Wildcats got their losses out of the way early, including a one-point November setback against Campbell County — a team they beat twice later in the season. Seven days later they were tripped up by Arlington, which hosts a West Tennessee sectional contest.
The Lady Wildcats have been a fixture at this point in the postseason throughout a long and decorated history. They have made 23 state tournament appearances, including twice in the past three years. They beat Daniel Boone at home in 2017 but lost to the Lady Trailblazers on the road last year.
Oak Ridge has won five sectional home games in a row, dating to 2007. The Lady Wildcats own three state titles (1988, 1994, 1997) with a remarkable 10 runner-up finishes.
Francis said the Lady Wildcats are similar to Science Hill.
“We got practice for them,” he said. “The game plan will probably be similar.”
SCOUTING OAK RIDGE
With her buzzer-beating 3- pointer to sink Maryville in the Region 2-AAA final, Jada Guinn tied Nikki Caldwell as the school’s all-time single-season leader in points with 819.
The 5-foot-8 senior has signed to play with Tennessee Tech. She is smooth and versatile, a game changer at the point guard position with her size and speed.
Bri Dunbar (5-5, Jr.) is a perimeter threat. Khamari Mitchell-Steen (5-7, So.), Raja Eckles, Shatyrah Copeland and Taliah Davis also contribute.
D-B rises and falls mostly on the shoulders of senior standout Courtney Whitson, who is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds per game. Whitson plays inside and outside, and she’s equally dangerous in both places.
Point guard Jaden Potts is a slick ball-handler with the quickness to bend an opponent’s defense. Ta-Tionna White is a gutsy post player who can rebound and finish very well.
The rest of the Lady Indians’ crew is an interesting mix of role players who are capable of making key plays. Included on the list are hustling Peyton Domby, post Jabrea Johnson, Caitlyn Wallace, Elle Francis, Megan Ayers and Bethany Welty.
“The big thing is we need to all have our spirits up,” said Coach Francis. “They have worked many, many minutes since March of last year. I had a couple of them, after the region loss to Jefferson County last year, text me the next day and say, ‘Coach, we want to get some shots up.’
“All of those hours of work, and we are 32 minutes away from doing something special. I will bet on my kids every day they will bring that heart and fire and be ready to play Saturday.”