Lady Vikes fall short of lofty goal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 13, 2002

[02/13/02] The Warren Central Lady Vikes had their eyes on a run to the Mississippi Coliseum for the state tournament.

That’s as close as they’ll get.

For the fifth straight year, the Lady Vikes (24-8) bowed out of their division, this time to Clinton, 43-39.

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The Lady Arrows (22-7) will square off against Natchez in the Division 4-5A championship game Friday night.

“I usually don’t get emotional after a loss, but this one hurt,” said WC coach Donny Fuller, trying to hold back tears. “I thought we had a good shot all the way to the Big House. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

“These seniors are a special group and they have meant so much to me. I hate this loss for them.”

LaToya George scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and nailed a pair of 30-foot 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as Clinton opened a 40-32 lead.

The Lady Vikes got the lead down to 41-39 with 1 minute, 3 seconds to play and had possession of the ball. But they missed three shots under the basket, and Clinton’s Markessa Hughes nailed a pair of free throws to put the game away.

“We had a shot,” Fuller said. “That’s all you can ask.”

Senior JaQuita Benard scored 17 points and had 14 rebounds for WC, but no other player scored more than five.

The Lady Vikes’ best shot came in the first half as George, a Louisiana Tech recruit, was held to just four points on 1-of-13 shooting.

“She has a badly sprained ankle and it is very tender,” Clinton coach Gary Miller said. “She gutted it out and played with a lot of pain. Anyone else would have probably sat it out.”

WC’s defense using Wanda Calvin to blanket George all over the court had as much to do with her struggles as anything. The Lady Arrows still led at the break, 20-16.

Hughes, the second-leading scorer, had only two points in the first half. Benard scored 10 of WC’s 16 points in the half.

“That was big,” Fuller said. “She comes out, though, and shoots two NBA 3s. She was 30 feet from the basket, what can you do?”

George hit a jumper at the end of the third quarter for a 32-27 lead. WC cut the lead to 34-32, but George’s two treys opened the lead to eight.

On defense, Clinton collapsed on Benard, holding the post player to just seven points in the second half.

“It seemed like every time I got the ball, they were all around me,” Benard said. “All five of them were on me.”

(B) Natchez 83, WC 64

Tenth-ranked Natchez started slowly against the fourth-seeded Vikings. That didn’t last long.

Je’Kel Foster and Vashun Newborne each scored 21 points to lead four Bulldogs (25-4) in double figures as the top seed advanced to the division finals against Clinton on Friday.

“The coaches told us to come out with the same intensity we had the last few games,” said Foster, who also had three 3-pointers. “We stepped up a notch and came to play.”

Warren Central, which was led by senior Sherman Logan’s 22 points, also got 16 from Dewayne Washington and 10 from Clifford Walker.

The Vikings (12-16) led early, 8-7, but in an instant, the fast-paced Bulldogs pulled away.

Natchez went on a 23-5 run to take a 30-13 lead midway through the second quarter.

Burton Broudy scored eight of his 14 in the second quarter. Derek Jarvis chipped in 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

“The beat us on the inside with a lot of easy baskets and that was the turning point of the game,” first-year WC coach Preston Wilson said.

A 27-point second quarter extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 42-23 at the half and it hovered around 20 the rest of the night.

Logan netted 13 of his points, including three 3-pointers, in the fourth quarter, but WC never got the lead below 16 points early in the fourth quarter.

“We did a good job with the press early,” Wilson said. “But they just made easy baskets and won it down the stretch.”