Willis’ hot hand saves WC in satellite win|[02/20/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lady Vikes to face No. 1 Murrah next

The Brittany Willis prayer hotline got a workout in Monday night’s Class 5A North State girls satellite game.

Willis went to the free throw line 14 times against Starkville and 13 times she hit nothing but net. Her last four makes in the final 53.5 seconds preserved Warren Central’s 60-56 victory and sent the Lady Vikes (24-8) on to Tupelo for the North State tournament.

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&#8220I try not to think about it,” Willis said of her free throw shooting. &#8220I just say my little prayer and then shoot.”

WC coach Donny Fuller was more than happy Starkville kept fouling Willis in the fourth quarter.

&#8220That’s who I wanted them to foul. That’s why I kept wanting her to have the ball so that they would foul her and put her on the line,” Fuller said.

The Lady Vikes did not make a single field goal in the last 11 minutes of the game. Starkville took advantage of the first six minutes to erase all of WC’s 14-point lead with a 16-2 run.

Willis finally broke the WC drought by making one of two free throws with 5:17 left to snap a 45-45 tie. Starkville (22-6) answered with a Kierra Jones basket to take its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. The Lady Yellow Jackets then made a wrong move by fouling Willis.

She made both shots with 4:49 to go to put WC ahead to stay at 48-47.

WC forward Sha’Kayla Caples added two free throws for the last of her 26 points and a 50-47 lead.

Down 54-48 with under two minutes to play, Starkville’s Sanitra Bush dropped in her 13th basket of the game to make it 54-50. The Lady Yellow Jackets then drew a five-second call to get a chance to pull closer. A tired Bush, though, missed both ends of a two-shot foul with 1:46 left.

WC played keepaway after the rebound, draining nearly a minute off the clock before Willis was fouled with 53.5 seconds left. She made both shots and added two more 10 seconds later to keep WC ahead by six at 58-52.

An intentional foul of WC’s Shantta Taylor with 27 seconds left ended Starkville’s chances.

Willis said Starkville’s aggressiveness both shooting and rebounding made it a difficult game for the Lady Vikes.

&#8220We knew coming in that they like to crash the boards, all five of them,” Willis said. &#8220Then they also went man on us and that made it hard for us to get a shot.”

Starkville took 78 shots but made just 23 which led to a lot of offensive rebounds. Starkville out-rebounded WC 44-34.

&#8220Believe you me, they go to the boards hard,” Fuller said of Starkville. &#8220And when they went man, it got us a little shook. But in the fourth quarter, we made free throws.”

WC made 22 of 30 free throws for the game.

&#8220I think changing defenses to the man got us a spark and we got the momentum,” Starkville coach Kristie Williams said. &#8220In the first half, our zone was just allowing too many easy baskets.”

Caples took advantage by making 11 of 14 shots, nearly all from a mid-range of 10-to-14 feet. The soft jumpers helped WC grab a 43-29 lead with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

&#8220She’s expanding her shooting range,” Fuller said of Caples, who also had 19 rebounds, including seven in the fourth quarter.

&#8220You see why she leads that team,” added Bush, who finished with a game-high 30 points to go with 12 rebounds. &#8220And (Willis) showed she’s a good free throw shooter.”

&#8220I played with her (Bush) in the all-star game last July, so I knew she was good,” Willis added.

Courtney Cannon added 12 points and eight rebounds for Starkville.

Tupelo 69, Vicksburg 43

Katie Hancock scored 23 points, Destini Shannon added 16, and Tupelo (31-2) routed the Vicksburg Missy Gators (16-14) in a Class 5A North State satellite game.

Tupelo jumped out to a 20-point halftime lead, 35-15, and didn’t allow Vicksburg to score more than nine points in a quarter until the fourth. Vicksburg outscored Tupelo 21-16 in the final period, but was already behind by 30 points by then.

Tiffany Williams led Vicksburg with 14 points and Kamiko Martin scored eight.