Traditional powers square off

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 4, 2004

Warren Central’s Cookie Johnson, left, shoots over Murrah’s Shaneka Jones during the Lady Vikes’ loss to Murrah on Feb. 11. The two teams will square off again on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Class 5A State Tournament quarterfinals in Jackson. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[3/4/04]No girls basketball team in Class 5A has dominated the sport in the past six years as the Murrah Lady Mustangs.

The Jackson school has won five state championships in the past six years, and will be shooting for another starting Friday at 1 p.m. against Warren Central at the Mississippi Coliseum.

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Lady Vikes coach Donny Fuller says wait just a minute.

It’s Warren Central that has more tournament appearances (12) than Murrah (11). It’s Warren Central that has more trips to the Class 5A finals (seven) to Murrah’s six.

And it’s Warren Central who comes into their Friday showdown with a higher tournament seed.

“Murrah’s been on a roll here the last few years winning six state championships and all,” Fuller said. “But I pointed out to our kids that of the six schools left in 5A, the one that has played in the most championship games is Warren Central.”

The Lady Vikes (23-9) have not played in a championship game since 1996, the last year they reached the Coliseum. None of this year’s Lady Vikes were near reaching high school when that happened.

“We have a lot of tradition here and we are excited about going over there and playing,” Fuller said.

The vastness of the building and lack of a familiar backdrop behind the basket have some players concerned.

“I’m going to be scared,” WC guard Dorothy Jenkins said. “But honestly, all we have to do is play our game and see what happens.”

Fuller said he is planning on getting to the arena at 11:30 a.m. and holding a shoot-around in an attempt to get accustomed to the surroundings.

“We’re just going to get there early,” Fuller said.

The two teams are not strangers. They met on Feb. 11 at Warren Central, a 64-58 Murrah win.

The Lady Mustangs led by 16 before the Lady Vikes cut the lead to as little as five.

Fuller said Murrah threw a zone defense at his team that he hadn’t seen them do before.

On Tuesday, his team worked on that exact defense.

“We’ve been working on some things and I think we’ll be a lot more prepared for them this time,” Fuller said.

Murrah lost in the first round of the South State Tournament to Clinton, then beat Brandon in the third-place game to earn a spot in the Coliseum.

As good as they are, Fuller said they aren’t what they used to be.

“They’re good, no doubt,” Fuller said. “But I’ve said the best thing that happened to girls basketball is Provine and Callaway, because it’s kept Murrah from getting them all,” he added about the Class 4A powers from Jackson that are in competition for the city’s best players each year.

With a victory Monday, the Lady Vikes will play Tupelo on March 11 at 1 p.m.

“Hopefully we’ll do good and beat Murrah,” said WC’s Ebone Williams, who scored 24 points in a victory over Gulfport in the South State Tournament. “I’m not worried about anything Murrah has, I’m worried about how we’ll play. We have to play well if we want to win.”