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Cinderella lives in McKenzie

When I dropped by the gymnasium in McKenzie Monday afternoon I expected to hear balls bouncing on the hardwood and the voice of Lady Tigers basketball coach Cindy Lowe shouting instructions.

But to my surprise, the gym lights were off and the doors were locked. I could still hear Lowe's voice in the distance, but could not imagine where it was coming from.

Then I peered around the gym to find her on the softball field. She's the softball coach, too.

She walked to me with her signature smile and explained to me that she gave her girls, who are one win away from a Monday morning date in Mobile in the Southwest Regional, a much-deserved day off.

Any other team in the state would be beating the hardwood with the high-pitched squeaks of shoes and the thuds from the constant bouncing of basketballs on the courts, but not in McKenzie.

After beating J.F. Shields for only the second time in the school's history for the Class 1A, Area 3 tournament title, a celebration ensued. The trophies were presented and Lowe and her girls exchanged hugs and kisses of congratulations.

Then when everyone was gone, the doors were locked and the music began to play. Lowe and her girls celebrated at mid-court just as they did last week after beating Florala to advance to the tournament final.

Their goal had been accomplished, Lowe said on Monday.

From here on out it's just fun, she said.

And that's the approach that may just send McKenzie and Lowe as far as they want to go.

The Lady Tigers, who have been the virtual doormats for their opponents for the past 13 years , aren't used to the pressures of winning or succeeding. McKenzie reached its goal almost three weeks ago when it won the area championship.

By no means does Lowe place her basketball teams with the dominant teams in Class 1A like your Notasulgas, J.F. Shields or Hazlewoods. And that's a good thing.

It's also a very dangerous thing for their upcoming opponents like Frisco City, which will visit the tiny McKenzie gym this Thursday night.

Should the Lady Tigers get by Frisco City on Thursday, this team could just as easily earn a trip to Birmingham as any other team in the Class 1A Southwest Regional tournament.

While McKenzie may not have the flashy record like a McIntosh, which has only lost one game and beat Frisco City by 52 points in its area tournament title game, the Lady Tigers have an advantage over all of the teams in the state.

They are the unknown.

They also are the most relaxed teams on the court because everything from here on out is just fun.

That sounds like a Cinderella in the making.

Indeed, Cinderella has a place and it is in this south Butler County community called McKenzie.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. Call him at (334) 382-3111 ext. 122 or e-mail kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com.