As they get ready to defend their title, members of the Pugwash District High Panthers know they'll be the team everyone will be trying to knock off.
The Panthers, who won the 2008 title in thrilling fashion in Lockeport last March, will be defending their title on their home court beginning Thursday as the school hosts the 2009 NSSAF Division 4 Girls Basketball Championship Tournament.
"We have nine players back and we know our chances are good, the main thing will be controlling our emotions," coach Mike MacDonald said. "The girls think it will be easier this time playing at home, but I keep reminding them that nothing is easy and not to take anything for granted."
Fresh off winning the Northumberland regional over the arch rival Oxford Regional High Golden Bears, the Panthers enter the eight-team tourney seeded Number 1. They open against Number 8-seeded Sacred Heart at 6 p.m. while Oxford, seeded second, faces Number 7 seed Lockeport to open the event at 2 p.m.
Other opening day games include Inverness (3) against North Queens (6) at 4 p.m. and Cabot High (4) from Cape Breton against North Colchester (5) of Tatamagouche.
Action continues through Friday with the bronze and gold medal games set for Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.
The Panthers bring experience to this year's event with nine players back from last year's championship squad, led by seniors Michelle Alkema and Toni McKellar and Grade 10 students Karli Boyd and Bobbi Willigar.
"The main thing going for us is being able to stay positive. They refuse to give up in games and work right til the end," said MacDonald, adding he has a solid backcourt with guards able to control the tempo of the game.
The Pugwash boys will be at North Queens for the Division 4 tournament and will be joined by Oxford, Inverness, Cabot, Sacred Heart, Cape Breton Highlands, North Colchester and the host club.
Pugwash, seeded third, opens at 6 p.m. against Cabot while Oxford, seeded fifth, opens at 4 p.m. against Cape Breton.
In Springhill, the Golden Eagles will host the girl's championship seeking a return to the top.
Springhill, coached by Charlie Chambers, is seeded Number 1 and opens at 6 p.m. against eighth-seeded Digby.
Other teams attending include: SAERC (2), Halifax Grammar (3), Shelburne (4), Musquodoboit (5), Dalbrae (6) and New Germany (7).
Action at Springhill High runs through Friday and Saturday with the bronze medal and championship games on Saturday. The final is at 3 p.m.
In Division 2, the ARHS Vikettes will look to reclaim the title they lost in the final seconds last year when they travel to Breton Education Centre.
The Vikettes are seeded first and open at 8 p.m. against eighth-seeded South Colchester.
Other teams include Middleton (2), BEC (3), North East Kings (4), Central Kings (5), Liverpool (6) and Forest Heights (7).
The boys squad is in Central Kings and is seeded seventh. They open against second-seeded Central Kings at 1:30 p.m.
BEC is seeded one while Bridgewater is third, Millwood fourth, North East Kings fifth, Eastern Shore sixth and King's-Edgehill eighth.
In Division 3 boys, Springhill is the sixth seed travelling to St. Mary's Bay Academy to open against third-seeded Bridgetown at 2 p.m.
Other teams include: Shelburne (1), Hants North (2), St. Mary's Bay (4), Digby (5), Dalbrae (7) and Ecole du Carrefour (8).