Published 12:00 am Monday, February 11, 2002

have hard road to playoffs

[2/10/02]Vicksburg and Warren Central have their work cut out for them to make it to the playoffs.

Playing in one of the toughest divisions in the state, WC and VHS begin the Division 4-5A tournament on Tuesday at Vicksburg High.

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“I think Natchez has got to be the favorite, and me and Clinton are right there,” VHS coach Dellie Robinson said. “Those teams have beaten some great teams, and we’ve been playing real well. If we come in ready to play, we can get to the championship game and anything can happen.”

Only the top two teams from the division tournament advance to the playoffs.

Natchez’s boys, ranked No. 10 with a 24-3 record, hold the top spot on the boys’ side and will match up with Warren Central (12-16) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Bulldogs won the three previous meetings this season, each by double digits.

“There is no pressure on us,” said WC coach Preston Wilson, whose team lost three times to Natchez this year. “We’re going to go out, be loose and play a good, hard ballgame. Hopefully, we’ll put ourselves in a position where we have a chance to win.”

Vicksburg (23-8), which split with Clinton this year, will tackle the second-seeded Arrows (21-8) at 8:30 Tuesday night.

Vicksburg lost at Clinton by 16, but won a thriller in overtime at VHS. Clinton received the No. 2 seed because its victory over VHS was by more than the loss.

“It’s going to be a tremendous game between us and Clinton. Whoever executes down the stretch is going to win,” Robinson said. “We match up real well with Clinton … I think we match up better with Clinton than with Natchez. If I had a choice, I would take Clinton over Natchez.”

On the girls’ side, second-seeded Warren Central (24-7) takes on Clinton (21-7) at 4 p.m. The Lady Vikes beat Clinton convincingly on Tuesday, but the Lady Arrows were playing without Louisiana Tech-bound LaToya George, who missed the game because of a school suspension.

“We’re practicing with every anticipation that (George) will play,” WC coach Donny Fuller said. “If she doesn’t play, I’ll tell you this, I will be high-fivin’ everybody on the bench.”

Warren Central’s seniors have never lost at Vicksburg High. This year, the Lady Vikes won the Coca-Cola Classic title over Callaway, then beat Port Gibson there after the game was moved because of a leaky roof at WC, and knocked off Vicksburg.

The Missy Gators (16-16) square off against top-seeded Natchez (24-4), a team that beat Vicksburg twice this year, at 7 p.m.

“We’ve learned that we’re going to have to do a lot of things differently, because nothing we did the first two times worked,” Coleman said, adding that the Missy Gators’ homecourt advantage will help some. “I definitely feel more comfortable on my home court than having to go there to play.”

The winners of the first-round games will play again on Friday night with the girls’ title game at 6 p.m. and the boys to follow at 7:30.

The winner of the division tournament hosts the second place team from Division 3-5A, which includes Murrah, Callaway, Greenville-Weston and Madison Central. The loser of Friday night’s championship game will travel to the 3-5A winner.

Fuller has even more at stake. With a division title and a satellite game win, the Lady Vikes are slated to host the North State championship series, if Greenville does not reach North State.

Horn Lake, Clinton and Meridian are the top three choices to host North State boys.

“If we can get that far, we have a shot,” Fuller said. “I told (WC principal Mac Douglas) that on the schedule, there is a musical program on the Friday night of North State.

“I don’t know if it will be a problem or not, but I hope it is.”

Vicksburg’s boys were the lone team to make it out of division a season ago, losing to Columbus in the satellite game.