Parkersburg South and University aren't exactly strangers.
The two West Virginia Class AAA powers normally meet at least two times during each regular season and, sometimes, down the tournament trail in March.
Today, they'll play for the Class 5A crown at the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Tournament inside Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Center. Tip off is set for 3 p.m., the third of five games scheduled.
''The biggest key for us is we'll have to play well for 32 minutes,'' University head coach Kamela Meikle said. ''We'll have to stay focused and take the game one possession at a time.''
The Patriots (15-0), the top seed, and the Hawks (14-2), the No. 2 seed and defending tournament champ, only had one day to get ready for today's meeting. But they've already met twice this season, so there won't be any surprises.
''They're an excellent team and Kamela does a great job coaching them,'' South head coach Scott Stephens said. ''They are a veteran team and they're experienced. They have everything you want in a team.
The Patriots, the top-ranked squad in West Virginia Class AAA and defending state champ, handed the Hawks both of their losses this season, picking up victories on the road (Dec. 17, 69-42) and at home (Jan. 16, 58-50).
''The first game, we were able to get in transition and get the ball up the floor,'' Stephens said. ''In the second game, we were able to do that, too. But the key might have been the Meadows girls for them getting hurt. She fell on her tailbone in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game.''
Meikle said the loss of the 6-foot senior interior stalwart certainly made a difference.
''That was a huge hit for us,'' she said. ''But we have some good trainers and they have her all straightened out. She's healthy and she'll be ready to go today.
''She is a very, very strong post player and can score.''
Senior Mariah Callen, who is headed to Wheeling Jesuit, is the team's point guard.
''She's been my point guard for four years and can score, distribute and defend,'' Meikle said.
Senior Cassidy Seamon is the two-guard, while classmate Shae Chico can also play outside.
''She's been getting her shot going as of late,'' Meikle said of Chico, who has rebounded well this year after injuring her ACL last season.
Rounding out the Hawks' starting five is sophomore Shelby Boyle.
''Her best attribute is her play around the basket,'' Meikle said. ''She is very good off the dribble and every now and again she can step back and drop in a 3.''
As far as Meikle is concerned, the Patriots are a well-oiled machine led by junior Keya Bartlett and sophomore Taryn McCutcheon.
''With McCutcheon, you're not going to control her,'' Meikle said. ''To compete, we're going to have to take care of the cast around her. Bartlett is a threat all the time and we'll have to do a better job of finding her late in the game.''
Bartlett surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career during Thursday night's 61-53 overtime triumph against No. 4 seed Morgantown. Earlier this season, she became the school's leader in 3-pointers made. She set a school mark for 3s in a season last year with 85.
''Her defense has also improved,'' Stephens said of Bartlett, who averages a team best 16.1 points per game. ''She gets steals and she's better at finishing. I think Thursday she took 14 foul shots.''
McCutcheon is one of four sophomores in Stephens' starting lineup. Averaging 14.5 ppg, 6.1 assists per game and 3.4 steals per outing, McCutcheon has already verbled to Michigan State. She was the catalyst to the Patriots' run to the state crown a year ago.
''She's just an all-around great player,'' Stephens said. ''She's our point guard and pressures the basketball and does a lot on dribble penetration and pull-up jumpers.''
Forward Carlie Wilson is the team's leading rebounder at 9.5 per game.
''Sometimes she handles the point, too,'' Stephens said. ''She can handle the ball pretty well. Sometimes we'll let her run the show.''
Katelyn Byrd is another forward. She is coming off ACL surgery and continues to improve.
Anna Hayton completes the starting lineup.
''She's a post player and is 6-1,'' Stephens said. ''She's had some big games and needs to have a big game. She'll be a big key today.''
Junior Katelyn Enoch and sophomores Mykalyn Fallon and Laken Valentine are names to look for coming off the South bench.
''We're still growing up,'' Stephens said. ''Last year we had high hopes when we went to Charleston (for the state tournament) and this year we have high expectations.''