Lady Vikes looking for respect at Greenville

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 16, 2001

[01/12/01] Warren Central players shook their heads when the first Associated Press girls basketball poll was released Wednesday.

Despite having lost just one game to a Mississippi school by five points to No. 3 Murrah, the three-time defending state champion the Lady Vikes (16-4) were shut out of the poll.

“… (T)here are a few teams ranked ahead of us that we’ve beaten,” said WC coach Donny Fuller, whose other losses came against West Monroe twice and St. Frederick, both Louisiana powers.

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The Lady Vikes, while not getting recognized yet this season, could get the state’s attention Friday night when they play at perennial power Greenville, ranked No. 15.

The Honey Bees and Lady Vikes are the two remaining undefeated Division 3-5A teams.

“(Friday night) is very important,” Fuller said. “It’s a chance for us to beat the only other team in our division without a loss, and three of our last four games will be in our gym.”

Greenville relies on a potent outside shooting game with Kiona and Erica Williams, who lead the team in 3-pointers. In their first two division wins, the Honey Bees also dominated the boards against Gentry and Vicksburg.

“I didn’t see the Vicksburg game, but against Gentry, they controlled the boards,” Fuller said.

Warren Central should not have the problems the other two had thanks to 6-2 Alabama-Birmingham signee Lia Green and 6-footer JaQuita Benard as well as a suffocating defense.

The Lady Vikes have given up more than 60 points just twice and 50 or more only three times.

“Defenses win championships,” said Fuller, whose 1995-96 squad advanced to the state finals after not getting much attention all season long, similar to this team.

“That team was very guard-oriented… and weren’t supposed to be there,” said Fuller, who lost to national power Harrison Central in the finals. “Someone told me that year, you’re the only team to play for a state championship that hasn’t won anything.’

“We finished runner-up in the division, runner-up in North State and runner-up in state. That team didn’t get noticed because they didn’t get hot until the end. This team now was hot from day one.”

A win against Greenville, a trip that is “always an adventure,” Fuller said, should get the Lady Vikes recognition.

“The polls create interest, but the only one that really matters is after the state tournament,” said Fuller, whose team debuted in The Clarion-Ledger poll, the only other statewide poll, at No. 14 on Tuesday.

Tupelo (15-1), ranked No. 15 in USA Today, was the top pick with 10 of 12 first-place votes, but fell to unranked Columbus after the poll was released Tuesday night.

Meridian (18-2) was second, followed by three-time defending Class 5A state champion Murrah, Raymond and McComb, which also lost to unranked Crystal Springs.

The Lady Vikes still have to play Raymond twice and Crystal Springs.

Lanier topped the boys’ rankings, but lost to Canton Tuesday night. The Bulldogs (20-2) were followed by Starkville, South Panola, Natchez and Hattiesburg.

Hinds AHS received votes, but did not make the poll, which is chosen by a panel of Mississippi sports writers.