RALEIGH, N.C. -- If you're looking for toughness, look no further than the Lady Fire of Chicago, Ill. This a team which played only six players for most of the tournament. One of those players suffered a fractured bone in her shooting hand the first game, and kept on playing. You would think the lack of depth would be a hindrance to a team that presses on every possession and pushes the tempo with every defensive rebound, but this team defeats the odds.
A team that has no true center and starts a 5-foot-7 rebounding machine as their actual post player can only rely on one thing -- toughness.
The Lady Fire fought adversity all weekend and topped it off with a 62-54 win Sunday over United Basketball out of Dallas, Texas, to win the Deep South Classic's top bracket.
These two teams ran the same style offense, looking to run the ball, and pressure defensively. The main difference was the guard play of the Lady Fire and how they are so skilled in taking other teams out of the game, mentally. United's guards were faced with a variety of different presses and jump-traps that would happen with every pass up the floor and that seemed to disrupt hopes of gaining any rhythm.
Janee Thompson is the pulse of the Fire, offensively and defensively, and she led the way on the front of the press by using her explosiveness and quick hands to turn quick steals into layups. The defensive attack kept United's backcourt second guessing where they could throw the ball and the split second of indecisiveness caused them to turn the ball over repeatedly.
Although the turnovers started to add up for United, it went into halftime trailing only 34-26. It was obvious that United had the post advantage with 6-3 Jada Terry occupying the lane and she was efficient when her guards were able to get her the ball.
The mentality of the Lady Fire is to be as fast as possible and play harder than their opponents regardless of fatigue or injury. Alexis Lloyd suffered the break in the first game and continued to play each game with her hand wrapped up in taped. Head coach, Mac Irvin said, "That is why we call her junk-yard dog, in her mind she is never incapable of playing no matter what has happened to her."
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Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.