Vikings shooting for new heights

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

Warren Central’s Marcus Harvey tries to retain control of the basketball during the Vikings’ 68-57 victory over archrival Vicksburg in the opening round of the Division 6-5A Tournament on Tuesday. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[2/19/04]Seddrick Williams helped lead the Warren Central Vikings to new heights last season when his team reached the Class 5A state playoffs.

Now the senior wants even more.

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Williams and the Vikings, fresh off a 68-57 victory over archrival Vicksburg in the Division 6-5A Tournament, will host Natchez, the division’s No. 4 seed Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Warren Central’s girls will play Forest Hill on Friday at 6 p.m.

“We have to keep playing like we’ve been playing, and if we can do that, I really feel like we can go to the Big House,” said Williams of a possible trip to the Mississippi Coliseum, home of the state championship tournament.

Last season’s run ended an almost decade-long drought where the Vikings were denied a playoff berth. But last year’s team reached the division championship before bowing out in the first round of the state playoffs to Class 5A runner-up Starkville.

Two starters from that team are gone, though, and Warren Central has had a penchant for inconsistent play.

That play has haunted first-year coach Jesse Johnson throughout the season.

“When we come out and play our style of basketball, we are a hard team to beat,” Johnson said. “… Our seniors have stepped up and showed a new level of maturity. They are playing like seniors should play.

“They’ve matured over the season, it’s just unfortunate that it has taken them so long to do so.”

The Vikings record, 12-15, may surprise some people, Johnson said, but he noted that many of the losses have been close.

Seven of the Vikings’ losses have been by five points or less, and four of those have been by two points or less.

On Tuesday, the Vikings used a suffocating press to force Vicksburg into 28 turnovers and turn a close game into a double-digit victory.

“It was really, really nice to send them to the house,” Williams said with a smile.

Natchez, meanwhile, brings the division’s No. 4 seed into the championship game, but the Bulldogs had little trouble disposing of top-seeded Forest Hill in the opener.

“They looked like an entirely different Natchez team than the two we beat earlier in the year,” Johnson said. “For some reason, they looked a lot better than they did in the course of the season.”

The Lady Vikes will be searching for their second straight division championship.

WC (20-8) has beaten Forest Hill (14-12) three times already this season by an average of 14 points each time.

The winners of Friday night’s championship games will host a South State satellite game on Tuesday.

“We obviously prefer to play the runner-up out of the other division,” Johnson said. “If we can get this one, it will be a big plus for us to stay at home.”