The past three seasons, Paine women's coach Selina Kohn has forced her team to watch the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship game from the bleachers.
"We've never experienced it," Paine senior guard Tiffany Isaac said, "but we've seen it."
All eyes will be on the Lady Lions (16-9) as they face Benedict tonight at 8 in the first round of the SIAC Tournament at Fair Park Arena in Birmingham, Ala. Paine is looking to advance past the tournament quarterfinals for the first time in coach Kohn's five year tenure.
"We've got to have energy," Kohn said. "The last couple of games, we've been dragging. We've been watching other teams play."
Benedict is the only SIAC team to defeat Paine twice this season. The Tigerettes handed the Lady Lions' their second-worst loss of the season in a 56-39 blowout Feb. 15. Benedict then defeated Paine in overtime, 62-60, on Feb. 22.
The Lady Lions should have at least one advantage: rebounding. Paine leads the conference in with a 6.8 rebounds a game (48.0 to 41.2) advantage over opponents.
Senior center Germaletta Dyson leads Paine in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (13). Isaac averages 14.5 points a game.
"We've set certain goals this season," Isaac said. "We've accomplished almost everything. The one thing left on the list is a conference championship."
The Paine men (10-16) will have to win the SIAC Tournament championship if they want to make a return trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Paine opens first-round action today against Fort Valley State at 12 p.m.
"We're capable (of winning the tournament)," Paine coach Ron Spry said. "At this particular time when you're preparing for the tournament, you're not preparing physically but mentally. Now everything becomes mental toughness."
Spry said his team has to do four simple things to win the tournament: play defense, rebound well, have good shot selection and cut down on turnovers.
"In between all that, you've got to have a lot of prayer and a lot of luck," Spry said. "Probably more prayer."
Paine has the league's second-leading scorer in senior guard Yari Scott. Scott leads Paine with 21.2 points a game, while senior forward Willie Adkinson chips in with 16.3 points a game.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.