When Oneida hosts its first Class A substate game in 15 years on Saturday, the Lady Indians will meet a Hampton team that has state tournament aspirations and a resume that suggests it can get there.
Oneida (23-10) will meet Hampton (20-13) at 7 p.m. Saturday at OHS Gymnasium. The cost of admission is $7.
The two teams enter Saturday's game hoping for one of eight coveted berths to next week's state tournament in Murfreesboro. The Lady Indians last advanced to the state tournament in 2005, losing to University School of Jackson in the quarterfinals. Hampton last made it to Murfreesboro in 2013, falling to Jackson County in the quarterfinals. In 2009, the Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament before losing to Madison Academy Magnet.
Tomorrow will mark Oneida's first substate game since that 2005 season. Hampton was last in the substate in 2015, losing at Oliver Springs, 51-49.
Oneida has beaten two Top 10 opponents this season, knocking off Clarkrange at OHS Gymnasium in December, and defeating No. 6 Meigs County in the Region 2-A championship game at Harriman on Wednesday.
But Hampton's resume isn't devoid of big-time wins. The Bulldogs advanced to the substate by stunning Northview Academy in the Region 1-A semifinals. Northview entered the game with a 27-4 record, having defeated Wartburg by 54 points earlier this season and having also defeated Class AA state championship contender Gatlinburg-Pittman.
The Bulldogs were defeated by South Greene — the state's top-ranked Class A team — in Thursday's Region 1-A championship game, 62-33.
Like Oneida, Hampton has played a tough schedule outside its district this season. Besides four losses to South Greene, the Bulldogs' only loss against a Class A team came against North Greene, a 52-48 loss on Jan. 27.
Since resuming the post-Christmas portion of its regular season schedule, North Greene, South Greene and Grainger — a contender in Class AA — are the only teams Hampton has lost to.
Oneida, meanwhile, enters Saturday's substate game riding a wave of momentum. Since a late December slump, the Lady Indians have been nearly unstoppable.
It was during that slump, which started with Clarkrange avenging an earlier loss to Oneida with a 50-point win on its home court, that the Lady Indians went just 2-6 in an eight-game span. A disappointing showing in the Anderson County Christmas Classic, which many expected Oneida to win, carried over into the post-Christmas portion of the regular season, with the Lady Indians falling at Oliver Springs, 59-58, on Jan. 10.
Since that time, however, Oneida's only loss was to Sunbright in the District 4-A semifinals. The Lady Indians have won 13 of their last 14 games. They avenged the loss at Oliver Springs with a 69-36 win at OHS Gymnasium, and earned an impressive win at Coalfield, 65-37. That stretch also included a rally from 22 points down in the second half at Wartburg, and the upset win over the state-ranked Meigs County team on Wednesday.