AUSTIN -- For the first time in four years, a team other than Neches will be celebrating a Class A Division II state championship.

No. 1-ranked Saltillo (31-5) would prefer to keep in East Texas. After all, the Lady Lions' previous three seasons have been ended by Neches in the playoffs.

Saltillo can take the first step toward its first state title in school history with a win Friday in its state-semifinal clash with Roscoe Highland (31-4). Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center.

The Lady Lions, whose only previous appearance at the state tournament came in 2001, reached Austin with a 54-42 win over Coolidge last Saturday in the Region III championship at Tyler Junior College.

Saltillo's 6-1 senior post Victoria Stretcher led the way with 19 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Karli Brewer added 11 points -- all in the second half.

Roscoe Highland, champions of Region II, is making its first appearance at the state tournament. The Lady Hornets enter Friday's semifinal on the heels of a 47-29 win over No. 13 Garden City in the regional finals last Saturday. Sierra Allen, a 6-1 junior forward, led the way with 22 points.

The winner of Friday's semifinal will take on the winner between No. 2 Whitharral (36-4) and 25th-ranked Leakey (24-7) in the 1A Division II state championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.

For more information on Saltillo, check out a team profile from earlier in the week.

Saltillo's Kendall Bain drives against Coolidge's Brianna Kirven during Saltillo's 54-42 regional title victory Feb. 23 in Tyler. (© Christopher R. Vinn,