By Ron Dawn's estimation, there was way more pressure on his Newport Central Catholic team to win a small-school state title last year than there is this time around.
The school had never won one before, and Dawn's players wanted to be the first. They felt the pressure last season.
Now that they have one Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic title under their belt, this year's players will spend this week's tournament putting the pressure on their opponent.
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"It's pretty much the same philosophy as last season," Dawn said. "We have balanced scoring and put a lot of pressure on the ball."
The Thoroughbreds are the favorite in this week's field of 16 small schools from around the state. At No. 15, they are the only school ranked in this year's field.
Defense is how NewCath wins games. It is allowing a tournament-low 38.2 points a game and is riding an 11-game win streak, the longest of any team at Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena this week.
Only three teams have scored more than 50 points against the Thoroughbreds' defense this season. Two of their three losses have been to fellow top 25 teams.
The formula is simple.
"If you don't play defense, you just don't play," Dawn said when asked how his team keeps up its intensity game after game.
Defending the Thoroughbreds is difficult, too. They don't have a single player averaging more than 11 points.
"It's nice when you don't have to rely on one person to go out and give you 20 points every night," Dawn said. "This team is unselfish. The players do a great job of getting the one with the hot hand the ball."
The tournament does feature plenty of high-scoring talent, though, including the state's top two scorers (in any class).
Players such as sophomore Rebecca Greenwell, a highly sought-after talent nationwide.
If the guard can stay hot, Owensboro Catholic (15-7) would have to be one of the favorites in the top half of the bracket. NewCath is in the bottom half.
Greenwell comes into the tournament averaging a state-best 34 points, which is just shy of half her team's points-per-game average (65.6).
Leslie County's Hillary Moore (27.3 ppg) is the second-highest scorer in the state.
Sheldon Clark (13-6) will make its first trip to the small-school state tournament behind the hot shooting of Carla Booth (22.8 ppg), who is in the top five in the state in scoring. The Cardinals have won eight straight entering the event.
If ratings hold, Walton-Verona (17-5) is the third-best team in the tournament. It has won three in a row and five of its last six games.
Dawn says that from top to bottom, the bracket is a minefield of talented teams and players.
"I know it's not going to be easy," he said.
Another team not to be counted out is Lexington Christian, which had won three straight All "A" Classic titles before last season.
The Eagles (12-7) don't have big names such as Sarah Beth Barnette, Anna Martin and Courtney Clifton from those previous state winners, but Coach Jason Seamands says his team has a shot now that it's healthy again.
"They're quietly confident that they can make some noise in the tournament," Seamands said. "I think they can."
At Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena
8:30 a.m.: Washington Co. vs. Owensboro Catholic; 10 a.m.: Louisville Christian vs. Leslie Co.; 11:30 a.m.: Louisville Holy Cross vs. Harlan; 1 p.m.: Lexington Christian vs. Crittenden Co.
5 p.m.: St. Patrick vs. Newport Central Catholic; 6:30 p.m.: Walton-Verona vs. Danville; 8 p.m.: Monroe Co. vs. West Carter; 9:30 p.m.: Sheldon Clark vs. Ballard Memorial
Quarterfinals: 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Semifinals: 10 and 11:30 a.m.
Finals: 12:30 p.m.