Scott Cozzens would prefer a good start, but if his Marietta High girls basketball team is trailing Jackson High at the end of the first quarter, he won't be too alarmed.
The second-year MHS head coach has seen it before on several occasions this season.
"It's been kind of the way we've been," said Cozzens, whose Lady Tiger cagers (20-2 overall) are scheduled to face the Ironladies in a district semifinal at Southeastern High at 8 p.m. tonight. "Think of it as a heavyweight fight. People are just feeling each other out and seeing what they really have.
"Then when we get into the flow, we can change matchups and get into stuff and get after it. We start shooting the ball better."
That's certainly what occurred in last Saturday's Ohio Division II sectional final at Alexander High in Albany. MHS trailed Sheridan 11-9 at the end of one but then outpointed the Lady Generals 17-8 in the second quarter en route to a 64-24 triumph.
In the second half, Marietta's pressing defense limited Sheridan to five points, which all came in the third quarter. That's right, the Lady Generals went scoreless in the final period.
"I remember looking up after we were making a run (in the second half) and I wasn't really paying attention on how we were doing," Cozzens said. "But I looked up and saw that it was 50-something to 24-something, and I asked 'Is that eight points for them this half?' And my staff said, 'No, it's five.'"
Marietta also trailed Jackson at the end of the opening period in the two games the two Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) schools played in during the regular season. During the Dec. 29, 2010 tilt at Sutton Gym, the Lady Tigers were down 15-9 at the end of one but came back to win 54-50.
At Jackson on Feb. 5, MHS battled back from a 10-8 first-quarter deficit to win the contest 51-50.
"We're very familiar with Jackson," Cozzens said. "Those were two real tough games.
"I don't mind facing them again. I'm not one of those who doesn't want to play a team three times. We've beat them four times in a row since I've been here. It's nice knowing a little bit about your opponent. They have a quality program."
Jackson punched its ticket to district competition with a convincing 71-45 win over Unioto in a sectional final last Saturday. The Ironladies were paced by Keri Jenkins and Madison Ridout, who scored 22 and 18 points, respectively. Meredith Harless chipped in with 11 markers, Nicole Chapman netted seven and Heather Chapman and Lydia Poe each had six.
Another Jackson player MHS will need to keep an eye on will be Emileigh Cooper, who tallied eight points in the late December meeting.
But for the most part, in the two games against Marietta this season, Jenkins and Ridout were Jackson's primary go-to people on offense.
Marietta is expected to start Erica Dawson, Maegan Grosel, Amanda Brown, Betsy Schramm and Ali Summers.
While Dawson, Grosel and Brown are the Lady Tigers' principal scoring threats, the 6-foot Schramm and 6-0 Summers are both good finishers in the frontcourt.
Against Jackson, Summers is averaging 10.5 points per contest.
Look for Elizabeth Stoll and Luisa Barton to be Marietta's first people off the pine.
"I thought Elizabeth Stoll played her best game maybe in two months, and Luisa went in and gave us a big lift defensively," said Cozzens after the sectional final Saturday.