History bodes well for WC

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2004

Warren Central’s Dorothy Jenkins stops Ocean Springs’ Alyssa Gatain with tight defense during the Lady Vikes 46-32 win in the South State satellite game on Tuesday. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[2/27/04]As Warren Central prepared to send the girls basketball team to the Gulf Coast for the South State Tournament, athletic director Lum Wright Jr. asked coach Donny Fuller where he wanted the team to stay.

Without hesitation, Fuller said he wanted to stay at the Best Western on West Beach Boulevard near downtown Gulfport.

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It certainly wasn’t the complimentary local phone calls or free shuttle service to the casinos that attracted Fuller. No, it was history.

The Lady Vikes stayed at that same hotel when they won the school’s first state championship in 1986, and Fuller was an assistant to Jerry Henderson.

“But I’m not superstitious,” Fuller said with a chuckle.

Superstition aside, the Lady Vikes will hope the Best Western provides the same magic as it did nearly 20 years ago.

The Lady Vikes (22-8) reached the South State final four and are within one victory of advancing to the Class 5A state tournament in Jackson starting on March 4.

“They are very good athletes and they will show us a lot of different looks,” Fuller said. “It will be a battle.”

Gulfport, a team Warren Central has already beaten this season, beat Harrison Central on Monday to earn a berth in the final four, while Warren Central easily disposed of Ocean Springs on Monday.

Fuller scheduled Gulfport for the Red Carpet Classic partly because of a feeling he would see them again, meaning he would already have a scouting tape. Fuller has done that in the past, as well.

“We always like to play good teams in the Red Carpet,” said Fuller, who beat the Lady Admirals 66-60 in January. “I knew there was a chance at both of us getting out and meeting somewhere down the road.”

Getting to South State has proved to be a defensive battle for Warren Central. Poor shooting from the field has led to close games the last three.

Against Ocean Springs, the Lady Vikes shot less than 20 percent from the field in the first half. In a division-clinching win over Forest Hill, the Lady Vikes needed a boost from the bench for a victory.

Fuller said against the Lady Admirals, his team needs to shoot better or it could be a quick Friday night.

“We’ve decided that we want to do one of two things,” Fuller said. “We want to score more points than our opponent, or hold them to fewer points than we score.

“We have to shoot the ball better. We’ve been a good shooting team all year and I don’t know why the last three ballgames we haven’t shot well.”

The Lady Vikes are guaranteed to play on Saturday, no matter the outcome today. The top three teams in the South State advance to the state tournament.

In the other semifinal, Hancock and Moss Point will play at 7:30 tonight. Both teams reached the state tournament a season ago.

“We’re the odd team out,” said Fuller, the only team from central Mississippi left in South State. “We’re the team that will have to sleep in a bed other than our own on Friday.

“I can put them in their room and tell them they can’t come out, but they’re not going to sleep.”