Robinson waits a little longer for gold ball

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2003

[3/11/03]It took Dellie Robinson 24 years to finally lay claim to a state basketball championship.

Twenty-four years to bask in the glow of a coaching career that has spanned four high schools over four decades.

Twenty-four years to hoist the gold championship ball … well, almost.

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Amidst the hoopla, interviews and celebrations, Robinson never got to hold the gold ball. The players grabbed it and took pictures, then the ball disappeared with Vicksburg High principal Charlie Tolliver.

“They took it away before I had a chance to get to it,” said Robinson with a laugh on Monday afternoon, recalling the madness after the Gators had beaten No. 2 Starkville, 61-54, to win the school’s first state basketball championship since 1980.

Robinson has had a few days to think about what his team accomplished in a season marked by firsts in Warren County basketball.

Despite finishing the season with 30 wins, Vicksburg never received a state ranking, nor did it have a player that garnered attention from any college scouts.

One of two polls, chosen by The Clarion-Ledger, almost ranked Vicksburg in December, but a surprising loss to South Pike in the Warren Central Invitational kept the Gators from cracking the polls.

And for those wanting to see the Class 5A champions top-ranked in the final polls, one better keep waiting. Provine is the top-ranked team, with Lanier in second and Vicksburg coming in at No. 3.

In the only two meetings of the season, Vicksburg beat the Class 4A champion Rams twice, including by double figures in Jackson.

“We’re number one,” said L.J. Scott after the Gators’ victory on Friday night. “Everyone on this team worked hard and contributed. This is unexplainable right now.”

Point guard Devin Jones, who was overlooked by every college this season, gained much notoriety in the state tournament. He averaged more than 25 points per game, was nearly flawless on his free-throw shooting and earned a spot on the Mississippi team for the March 22 all-star game in Pelham, Ala.

Several small schools asked about Jones during the tournament, but college coaches were in Jackson to see the 6-footer’s performance.

Vicksburg, which started four seniors and a sophomore, will have plenty of questions entering next season, but Robinson doesn’t want to think that far ahead.

Because of spring break, he hasn’t gotten to talk to any of his players, something he’ll make sure he fixes when the students return to school.

“I think it’s now sinking in what this means to the community and to this team,” Robinson said.