The Lady Mountaineers have advanced to the championship game of the USA South Tournament each of the past two seasons since joining the NCAA Division III conference.
And both times, they suffered hard-fought losses.
Those setbacks, however, came on the road.
This year, Berea College (23-4) will have a chance to win a championship on its own court.
The Lady Mountaineers will play host to the USA South Tournament semifinals and finals this weekend at the Seabury Center.
Berea College is set to take on Maryville (20-7) at 1 p.m. today. William Peace (23-3) will face Piedmont (18-8) at 3 p.m.
The title game is set for 3 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s so big,” Berea College senior Kristin Barnes said of playing host to the USA South Tournament. “We don’t have to travel eight hours and go somewhere else and play. It’s in our home gym. We are comfortable here and we love the energy here. This is exactly what we wanted.”
The Lady Mountaineers (15-1) earned the chance to play host to the USA South’s Final Four by finishing with the best regular-season record in the league.
Berea moved into the semifinals with a 86-63 win over Greensboro at home last Saturday.
“We know its do-or-die at this point,” Berea senior Nakeisha Greene said. “We know if we lose, we leave. So, we have four seniors and we don’t want to lose.”
The Lady Mountaineers swept the regular-season meetings with Maryville. Berea beat the Lady Scots 70-56 on Dec. 18 at the Seabury Center, then picked up an 83-62 win Jan. 29 on the road.
A much tougher test could await the Lady Mountaineers if they reach the championship game.
William Peace had a 15-1 conference record during the regular season and beat Huntingdon, 72-61, in the quarterfinals.
Berea has not faced the Pacers yet this season.
The Lady Mountaineers are very familiar with their other potential opponent in the title game.
Piedmont beat Berea College 69-63 in the USA South title game two years ago in Greensboro, N.C.
The Lady Lions defeated the Lady Mountaineers, 74-67, last season in the conference championship game on their home court.
“Every year, we’ve been so close,” Barnes said. “This year, we knew we had to step up because we know we can do it and we want to get there.”
Piedmont and Berea split the two regular-season meetings this year, with the road team winning each time.
Aaliyah Hampton has made a huge impact in her first season at Berea College. The freshman from Hopkinsville is averaging 18.6 points a game.
Last week, Hampton was named the USA South Player of the Year.
Freshman Destiny Combs has also had a great first college season. She is averaging 11.9 points a game.
Sophomore Bailee Vanover (9.9 points a game) and seniors Briana Lanham (9.3) and Bethanie Williams (9.1) are all averaging more than nine points a game.
Greene — the program’s all-time leader in rebounding — is averaging a team-best 10.3 boards a game.