First Lady Rocket Invitational tips off Wednesday

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By Todd Martin

The Lady Rockets will not have to travel for their first holiday tournament this season.

Normally the Lady Rockets head off to other parts of the state to face some of the state's top teams over the holiday break, but this year's teams will come to the Lady Rockets.

The school will host the first Max Performance Lady Rocket Invitational starting Wednesday, and there will be plenty to see.

Butler and Shelby County -- on opposite sides of the bracket -- are both preseason top 25 teams. Top 25 players include Butler's Tia Gibbs, Owensboro's Janae Howard, Rockcastle County's Sarah Rowe and Shelby County's Raechele Gray, and all four are the top ranked players in their respective regions.

Gray (Marshall), Gibbs (Vanderbilt) and Howard (Louisville) are all Division I signees, and Rowe is still undecided.

Butler is ranked second in the powerful 6th Region, Shelby second in the 8th Region and Rockcastle second in the 12th Region.

"We wanted a way to show off our athletes and our facilities -- which we feel like both are some of the best in the state," tournament director and assistant AD Greg Lawson said. "To have teams of this caliber coming in here to play, it's going to be a great chance to get some exposure for our school and our team."

SCHS head coach Sally Zimmerman said the field will not be a walk over, starting with the Lady Rockets' first game Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. against Owensboro.

"The field definitely isn't just set up for us to win," she said. "We've got some really good teams and extremely good players coming in here. I think this tournament will be a treat for the fans to watch."

As far as facing Howard and Owensboro, Zimmerman said it's quickly going to be a postseason-type atmosphere.

"We'll have a scouting report and a tape on them, but as far as seeing them live and how they play, we'll be going in blind," she said. "Sometimes that's a good thing. We'll concentrate on doing what we do and doing that well and then adjusting as the game goes on. A lot of times that's what you have to do come tournament time. It's going to be a very good challenge."

If they win, the Lady Rockets would likely see Rockcastle County after that, a team Zimmerman said is no stranger to big games.

"They've been in the state tournament several times, and they are always well coached," she said.

The top half of the bracket will likely see Butler make the finals.

Butler will face Waggener and then the winner of the Male/Woodford County game.

"It's nice to have these teams coming here to play since we're hosting the region tournament this year," Zimmerman said. "It will give us a chance to have a big-time tournament atmosphere on our court so we can be used to it."


Fans can see two games on Wednesday and Thursday for just $6 for a session ticket.

Friday and Saturday -- semifinal and championship sessions -- will include four games for the same $6 session price.