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Home sweet home: Warren Central sweeps division titles

Banks sparks Lady Vikes to 48-46 thriller

Nights like Friday are what Brittany Banks craves more than anything else.

The Warren Central starters were stuck in a game-long funk and Banks, a 5-foot, 5-inch junior, came off the bench to score a game-high 12 points to lead the Lady Vikes to a thrilling, yet sometimes ugly, 48-46 win over Forest Hill in the championship game of the Division 6-5A Tournament.

The Lady Vikes (21-8) captured their second straight division championship and will meet Ocean Springs in the South State satellite game on Monday at 7 p.m. at home.

“I thought Brittany Banks came off the bench and gave us some unbelievable minutes tonight,” WC coach Donny Fuller said. “It got to the point where she was playing so well, I couldn’t take her out of the game.”

Banks scored 10 points in the second half after Warren Central was held to only 15 in the entire first half. Carla Latham scored 11 points and Kristen Linson added five both in reserve roles.

“I felt like I had to step it up tonight because of Cookie and her ankle and everything,” said Banks, referring to WC’s leading scorer, Cookie Johnson, who suffered an ankle injury in the last 10 minutes of practice on Thursday.

Johnson played in spurts before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but she scored only four points her lowest total of the season.

The five Warren Central starters combined to shoot 17 percent from the field and scored 14 of the Lady Vikes 48 points.

“For a while, we were playing good team defense,” said Forest Hill coach Tommy Groves, who lost to Warren Central for the fourth time this season. “But late in the game, they had too much penetration from their guards and we didn’t have any help defense.”

Latham hit a shot in the lane with 9 seconds to play in the game to give WC a 48-46 lead in a back-and-forth second half.

The Lady Rebels attempted to get the ball to point guard Jessica Thomas, but Lady Vikes’ senior Saleda Montgomery denied the inbounds pass. Instead, the ball was inbounded to Kim Ward, who held the ball in the backcourt for three seconds before driving upcourt.

Ward lost possession, but picked up the ball with 1 second to play and tried to hoist an 18-foot shot from behind the free throw line. WC center Ebon Williams, who had her worst offensive game of the season, blocked Ward’s shot to end the game.

“What can you say about Saleda Montgomery?” Fuller said. “We ask her to handle the ball and so much more. There at the end, we tell her, Don’t let 22 (Thomas) get the basketball.’ And she doesn’t let her get it.

“I knew the ball was going to 22, and she was going to get it to one of the big ones.”

Ward led Forest Hill with 11 points and Tanika Martin had 10.

“We had way too many easy opportunities we let slip away,” Groves said. “We fumbled the ball out of bounds and missed easy shots under the basket. Against a good team, you can’t do that.”

Forest Hill never took the lead, though, sending WC to a home game in the first round of the Class 5A South State playoffs.

The Lady Vikes will host Division 7-5A runner-up Ocean Springs on Monday at 7 p.m.

The veteran WC coach is just happy to get away with a victory and host another game.

“I feel very fortunate, or lucky, or whatever you want to call it,” Fuller said.