Sayre's girls will be underdogs Wednesday when the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic tips off at the Frankfort Convention Center.
The Lady Spartans are 14th among the 16 participating teams, according to Dave Cantrall's Rating the State. They'll be up against No. 10 Leslie County at 11:30 a.m.
Coach Scotty Sutton thinks that a challenging schedule has Sayre (11-5) well prepared for the tournament, though. Some close losses may begin to pay dividends.
"We've lost five games, and four of those games were by a total of 12 points," Sutton said. "And I told them 'I honestly think all those tough losses has mentally prepared you to now get over that hump, and when it gets tight and it gets like that that we're going to pull through.'"
Never miss a local story.
Sayre certainly pulled through in the All "A" 11th Region finals, edging host Frankfort 40-36.
The Spartans dedicated the regional to Jalen Byrd, a member of the boys' basketball team who was killed in a car wreck the previous weekend. Players paid tribute with notations on their shoes, and a "J" on their upper arms.
Rather than have three players named to the all-tournament team, Sayre opted to have only Byrd's name recognized during the awards ceremony.
They continue to remember Byrd, but now the results are about a team looking to go as far as possible.
This is the first trip to the All "A" state tournament for Sayre's girls.
Leslie County, the 14th Region champ, presents a tough matchup.
"They have two very talented guards," Sutton said. "One of them (Katie Moore) is averaging 26 points a game and we've got to stay in front of her and keep her from penetrating into the lane. Then they've got a nice guard (Madisyn Combs) who can shoot it, so we're going to have to shade. And we've done a lot of that with a two-headed monster this year; we've played a lot of teams that had two good players.
"But what I'm concerned about with this team is not only do they have those two, but they have a pretty big post player (Brooke Asher). And that's usually where we've had an advantage with Gabby."
Gabby is Gabby Bowie, a 6-foot-2 junior who turned in a triple-double against Frankfort, with 15 blocks, 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Bowie thinks the close losses have made Sayre a better team.
"At first we didn't really know how to handle close games but we've been working on that a lot and just calming down," she said. "Just playing our game and not freaking out, so it's helped us a lot."
Leslie County (12-7) is among nine teams making a return trip to the All "A".
So what will be the key against the Lady Eagles?
"I think we definitely need to stay focused, get their key players down, and then figure it out from there," said Molly Manella, Sayre's leading scorer at about 16½ points a game. "But we can do it."
Said Bowie: "Staying focused and slowing the ball down, and just keeping our minds and heads in the game. Even when they get up a few points, not stressing, giving easy turnovers and just playing our game."
■ In addition to Leslie County, teams making a return appearance to the All "A" are defending champion Owensboro Catholic, Murray, Green County, Louisville Holy Cross, Collegiate, Newport Central Catholic, Bishop Brossart and Danville.