Missy Gators top WC for No. 3 seed

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003

[2/2/03]The Warren Central Lady Vikes had the No. 2 seed in the Division 4-5A tournament dangling like a carrot in front of them Saturday morning. Then, each time they got within reach, the Vicksburg Missy Gators cruelly snatched it back before eating it themselves.

Warren Central rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to get as close as two points, but Tricia Dart hit a pair of game-clinching free throws with 3.8 seconds to play to give Vicksburg a 64-60 win.

The victory assures VHS (15-12, 3-3 Division 4-5A) of no worse than the No. 3 seed in next week’s division tournament.

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“Not only beating Warren Central, but keeping us away from Natchez in the first round, it’s big,” VHS coach Mike Coleman said. “I told the kids, whether the tournament was at Clinton or at Warren Central, just staying away from the home team as long as you can is an advantage.”

WC must beat Clinton on Tuesday to avoid finishing fourth in the division and facing tournament host Natchez in the first round. The winner of Tuesday’s game will face VHS in the first round, while the loser draws Natchez.

Natchez beat Clinton on Friday to earn the No. 1 seed and is undefeated at home against division opponents this season.

“It makes it fairly clear as to what we’ve got to do. We beat Clinton Tuesday night, and we’ll match up with Vicksburg in the first round. If we lose, we’ll match up with Natchez,” WC coach Donny Fuller said. “Bottom line, if we would have won today we would have played Clinton no matter what.”

The Lady Vikes fell behind early Saturday and were forced to play from behind for most of the game.

VHS jumped out to a 24-13 lead after one quarter before the Lady Vikes came up with steals on three straight possessions midway through the second period and turned all three into layups to cut it to 28-24.

The Lady Vikes took a brief lead early in the third quarter, 35-34, on a free throw by Cookie Johnson, but VHS answered with a 10-3 run to make it 45-37. Another 8-0 run late in the third put the Missy Gators ahead by 16 points, 53-37.

“We didn’t change anything. We just got a few steals, and I thought Warren Central was a little slow getting back a few times,” Coleman said. “We just got a few rebounds and a couple of fast breaks out of them.”

WC was far from finished, though.

Carla Latham converted a 3-point play, then hit a pair of rebound baskets to cut it to 56-53 with just under 4 minutes remaining.

“(Latham) gave us a big spark. I thought she came in and did a good job for us,” Fuller said.

Charlette Taylor and Tiffany Hubbard each hit one free throw, and Dart sank a short jumper to restore Vicksburg’s lead to 60-53 with 2:02 to play, but WC’s Cookie Johnson and Ebon Williams each had a basket to cut it back to 60-57.

After a Hubbard layup, Saleda Montgomery knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 62-60 with 11.9 seconds remaining.

That was as close as the Lady Vikes got. Dart was fouled with 3.8 seconds to go and hit both free throws to make it 64-60, then stole the inbounds pass near midcourt to end any hopes WC had of a miracle finish.

“We dug too big a hole in the first quarter at the beginning of the game, and then too big a hole in the third quarter,” Fuller said. “The kids played hard. They fought back.”

Dart led VHS with 19 points, Hubbard had 14 and Shalonda Williams had 11. Johnson had a game-high 22 points for WC, while Latham finished with 11 and Montgomery had 10.