Sasha King looks to get around Lawton's Ashley Davis. 11/28/06. Transcript photo by Kevin Ellis

It would be easier for Norman High to go to a local tournament. Maybe just travel a few minutes to a nearby gym to play in the many tournaments that are taking place this weekend.

But the Tigers prefer a long bus ride out of state, staying in a hotel and playing some of the toughest teams in the nation.

Why all the hassle?

“Because it just helps you in so many ways,” NHS coach Matilda Mossman said.

The Tigers, ranked fourth in Class 6A, will play in Overland Park, Kan., today at the Lady Saints Classic at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School. NHS is seeded second and will face No. 7 seed Wyandotte, Kan., at 4:45 p.m.

The top seed is Bellview West, the top-ranked team in Nebraska. St. Thomas, which made the state tournament last year, is the third seed and Bishop Miege, Kan., is No. 4.

Bishop Miege is a perennial power and is coached by Terry English, who’s won over 600 games.

Also in the tourney is fifth-seed Helias, Mo., sixth-seed Sumner, Kan., and eighth-seed Ponca City.

So the field is stacked. But that’s how the Tigers like it.

“This gives us a chance to play some top-ranked teams,” Mossman said. “I think tournaments like this makes us better. It helps us get ready for the state tournament.”

This is nothing new to NHS (1-1). The Tigers have made it a point to go to at least one out-of-state tournament every season. Last year, they went to two, traveling to Ft. Smith, Ark., and Sherman, Texas. The year before that they went to Springfield, Mo.

Competition is the main reason. Plus, it helps a team bond together when it has to spend three days together in a hotel.

“Also, playing in-state tournaments, we end up playing the same teams,” Mossman said. “There’s only 32 teams in Class 6A and we play seven of them twice every season. You go out of state and you play teams that you don’t see every day. That only makes you better.”

The Lady Saints Classic was a long-running event that had disbanded in recent years. Last year, St. Thomas officials thought about putting the tournament back together and asked Mossman if she’d bring her team.

Mossman is familiar with Kansas, having coached at Kansas State from 1984-89.

Plus, St. Thomas’ leading scorer last season, Lindsay Ballweg, is a teammate of former NHS star Sade Morris at Kansas.

“That was kind of our connection to this event,” Mossman said. “This is just a really good tournament with some really good competition. Plus, there will be a lot of college coaches there and they’ll have the opportunity to see our kids. We’re really excited about this opportunity.”

Scott Moore366-3535sports@normantranscript.com

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