Lady Vikes gear for another Top 5 team in RCC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 24, 2002

[01/24/02]Wayne County walked away from Warren Central with the Red Carpet Bowl football trophy.

Now, the War Eagles have their sights set on the Red Carpet Classic basketball trophies.

Like football, Wayne County brings in a pair of teams that are talented and deep.

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The Lady Eagles are ranked No. 2 in the Mississippi Associated Press poll behind unbeaten Tupelo, while the Eagles are ranked fourth.

“They are really a great basketball team,” Fuller said. “They probably run the break better than any high school team I have ever seen. If you don’t get back, it’s pass, pass, pass, layup.”

Fuller, who beat Provine and lost a close one to No. 3 Murrah earlier, is no stranger to playing a tough schedule.

While the Lady Vikes will face No. 4 Provine again, Wayne County gets a much easier opponent on Friday night in Forest Hill. Wayne County coach Gina Skelton said the team will stay in Jackson.

“I offered to swap, but since Forest Hill is a district game for them, I didn’t think she could do it,” Fuller said with a chuckle.

Fuller is familiar with Skelton, who coached Forest to a win over the Lady Vikes two years ago before leaving for Waynesboro, about 30 miles east of Laurel.

“One thing you can say about our kids is they are hard workers,” Skelton said. “These kids love to play basketball and they play hard.”

Skelton’s Lady Eagles carry a 23-1 record have lost just once to Moss Point, a school that entered the year as the No. 1 team in the state.

Natalie Jordan, a Mississippi University for Women signee, leads Wayne County’s high-octane offense, while junior forward Carla Bartee made The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen this season.

“We don’t have any time to prepare for Wayne County,” Fuller said Wednesday. “We’ll use today and tomorrow to prepare for Provine, because that’s the next game on the schedule.

“Then, we’ll do the best we can against Wayne County and hope we don’t get embarrassed.”

Skelton said her team is not blessed with a lot of size, but rely on a suffocating man-to-man defense to send opponents swirling.

Warren Central, meanwhile, is paced by Wanda Calvin’s 15 points per game and JaQuita Benard’s 12 points per game.

“We expect some great competition,” Skelton said. “It’s always good to play a team the caliber of a Warren Central.”

The Lady Eagles have the record and ranking over WC, but history is on the Lady Vikes’ side.

Warren Central has lost just once in the six-year history of the tournament and has beaten two No. 1 teams (Starkville in 1997 and Harrison Central in 1995). WC was slated to play No. 1 Grenada in 1996, but the game was iced out.

The lone Warren Central loss in the RCC came in 1998 to No. 1 and nationally ranked Yazoo County, a team that beat Skelton’s Forest team for the Class 3A state championship.

“We’ve been fortunate to play as well as we have in the Red Carpet,” Fuller said. “It’s an exciting day for the kids. They get a lot of basketball and it’s played in their gym.”

Wayne County’s boys team brings a No. 4 state ranking and a 20-1 record. The War Eagles will square off against a struggling Warren Central squad, which has not won a game in 2002.

Tipoff for the boys game is set for 7:30 p.m.