MOULTRIE -- The news on Colquitt County's Teresa Hamilton, injured in last Saturday's victory over Bainbridge, is not good, but could be worse.

The Lady Packers starting guard apparently suffered damage to the medial collateral ligament in her left knee and will be out at least three weeks, causing her to miss the CNS/Colquitt County Invitational that opens today at the Gladys Espy Gymnasium.

But Lady Packers coach Joe Parker said an injury to that ligament, which is on the inside of the knee, generally is not a severe as anterior cruciate ligament damage.

"We hope it's one of those (injuries) that will heal itself," said Parker.

Hamilton is leading the Lady Packers in scoring, with a 10.5 average, and in 3-point baskets, with 15.

"She was really coming along," Parker said. "She was really getting her confidence."

The senior guard also has been the team's most consistent free throw shooter (24-for-41) on a team that has managed to convert a miserable 42.3 percent (69-of-163) from the line this season.

The Lady Packers actually had one of their better performances from the foul line last week against Cairo, the team they will meet at 7 tonight in their first game of the two-day tournament, but still ended up on the short side of a 41-39 score against the Syrupmaids.

The other opening-round games of the tournament, which will be held at the Gladys Espy Gymnasium, will include Worth County's girls against Camden County at 4 p.m.; Camden's boys against Cairo at 5:30 p.m.; and Colquitt County's boys against Worth County at 8:30 p.m.

The consolation games will be at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship games will follow at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Although the Lady Packers hit 8-of-13 from the free throw line last week against Cairo, their 39 points against the Syrupmaids was well below their season average of 51.7 points a game.

"We were real sluggish," Parker said of the game, which was played the day after Christmas. "We've got to be able to score more than that."

The Lady Packers also played that morning without guard Mantoya Thomas, who was suffering with asthma.

Thomas, a junior who will inherit Hamilton's job next season, is averaging 7.2 points a game. She returned to the lineup the next day against Valdosta and scored 13 points. She also had 12 against Bainbridge last month.

"Toy is going to see what it's going to be like next year," Parker said. "But she's really been responding this year. It's like, 'This is an opportunity I want.'

"And Cairo hasn't seen Toy."

Parker said senior Valeika Ponder also will have to take on more ball-handling chores.

The Lady Packers also could use Ponder to build on her scoring effort in Colquitt's 57-42 victory over Bainbridge last Saturday. Ponder had a season-high 16 points after being held to just four points total in the first two tournament games.

Freshman Jessica Lemus also had a big game against Bainbridge, coming down with 14 rebounds. She had five points and a 1-for-9 performance at the foul line cost her a chance at a double-double.

The Lady Packers should like their chances against Cairo, despite last week's loss.

The Syrupmaids turned the ball over 34 times in the game and needed a driving layup by Latoya Brown with 18 seconds left to break a 39-39 tie and win the game.

Cairo got a big night from Shawnta Pope, who had 23 points and four rebounds. Three of her rebounds came in the fourth quarter when the Syrupmaids refused to let a close game get away.

"She's their heart and soul," Parker said of Pope, a preseason All-Region 1-AAAA selection.

The Lady Packers will play either Worth County or Camden County on Saturday in the tournament's second day.

It will be the team's final outing before it opens the Region 1-AAAAA part of the schedule a week from today at Lee County.

A rematch with Valdosta awaits on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Espy Gymnasium.

"Beating Bainbridge down doesn't prove anything," Parker said. "Our goal is to take a step forward every time we play."

The Lady Packers, 6-4, take a two-game win

ning streak into tonight's game. Colquitt's boys, however, have won just one of their last five games and dropped two-of-three in the Thomasville tournament last week.

The five-game slide started with a 55-52 loss to Worth County on Dec. 17 in Sylvester.

Like the Lady Packers, Colquitt's boys should be in a good position to avenge their earlier defeat.

The 52 points represents the team's lowest output of the season and leading scorer John Michael Hall, averaging 14.9 points a game, was held by the Rams to just eight.

The Packers have struggled recently with the loss of two contributors -- starter Cedric Richardson, who has been suspended, and top substitute Dantrell Hunt, who has been out of town.

Packers coach Keith Hall has been starting John Michael Hall, Renoto Wright, Robert Thompson, Sherrod Edwards and Darryl Slaughter.

Freshman Jeremy DeBruce has been in the game early.

COLQUITT NOTES: The Espy Gymnasium will have a new gown for the tournament.

The floor has has been refinished by Parker and junior varsity coach Donald Dale and the bleachers also have been cleaned and varnished. And the gymnasium has received a new paint job.

Admission to the tournament is $4 for adults and $2 for students.

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