Upset-minded Gators have plan for Columbus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2001

[02/21/01] Getting ready for Wednesday night’s North State satellite game was anything but routine for Columbus players and coaches.

On Friday, storms ripped through the city, knocking down trees, power lines and traffic lights. The city is in the midst of a massive cleanup. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove petitioned President Bush to declare a state of emergency in the area.

“We still have several players that are without power,” Columbus coach Sammy Smith said.

Yet the Falcons keep mowing down their opponents.

On Monday, three days after the originally scheduled game, Columbus (26-5) beat No. 3 Starkville by double digits. The Yellow Jackets beat Columbus twice in the regular season.

“We had to keep them from scoring, not panic and chip away,” Smith said of the come-from-behind win. “We slowly made some plays and before you knew it, the game was tied, like starting at 0-0.”

That’s exactly how Vicksburg coach Dellie Robinson sees his Gators’ situation in the hunt for the state championship.

Coming off a loss in the division championship game to Greenville, in which Vicksburg (24-10) led by 14 late in the third quarter, the Gators are struggling to find the right team to show up.

The veteran VHS coach, who went to Columbus on Monday to scout the game, said the Falcons’ defensive sets play more favorably to the Gators’ offense than Starkville.

“They will play straight man-to-man and will beat you with discipline and outside shooting,” said Robinson, searching for his first trip to the North State championship series since 1996. “They are a solid basketball team, but they are predictable in what they are going to do.”

If the staunchly man-to-man Falcons stick to their plan, Vicksburg’s post game will play a major role. Behind Demetrick Allen, Dewayne Jackson and Patrick Igbokwe, the Gators pose a formidable challenge in the post.

“They are a lot bigger than us down low,” Smith said. “We just hope to take a 1-0 lead and hold the lead from there.”

The Falcons are led by guard Hosea Butler, who scored 12 against Starkville. Butler has been scoring more lately, Smith said, but the Falcons run as many as 11 players in and out of the game.

“We have played 30 games and I’m sure we’ve had 20 different high scorers,” Smith said.

The Gators will rely heavily on the guards as well. Jason Walker, who was suffering with sore tonsils on Friday, is healthy and sharpshooter Miguel Henyard will look to find his stroke after his worst shooting game of the year against Greenville.

The winner advances to the four-team North State tournament, and three of those teams advance to the Mississippi Coliseum for the six-team state tournament. With a win, Vicksburg will play Friday at Murrah, a 116-100 winner over South Panola Tuesday night.

“This time of year, everyone that is playing is good so all the records get tossed out,” Smith said. “I’ll tell you one thing, Coach Robinson is not coming to Columbus to lose, you can bet on that.”