Murrah powers past Warren Central|[02/09/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2008

As hot as Warren Central was from the perimeter, it still could not catch up with the nation’s sixth-ranked team Friday night at WC.

Murrah (24-1) withstood a barrage of nine made 3-pointers by the Lady Vikes, including a 65-foot bank shot by point guard Karnina Bunch to end the third quarter, to take a 65-56 win. LSU signee LaSondra Barrett, one of the nation’s top-rated players by many recruiting services, had a double-double with 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“When I saw that shot go in I thought, is this a dream?” Barrett said of Bunch’s shot. “Warren Central is a very good team, especially under Coach (Donny) Fuller. And they shot it well from the perimeter, but they couldn’t match up with us inside. When the game got tight, I moved to the block and was able to find the open girl and they finished their shots.”

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That was something WC (15-12) had trouble doing in the final four minutes. Down just 57-54 with 4 minutes, 10 seconds left, the Lady Vikes missed their next nine shots in a row.

On the Murrah side, Barrett, who was being watched by LSU coach Van Chancellor, directed a decisive 8-0 run to put the contest away. Three times the 6-foot, 1-inch forward caught the ball with her back to the basket and was able to drop step her defender for either a basket or an easy pass to Murrah’s other two 6-footers in the post in Brandi Simmons and Kierra Dampier for a basket. The trio made three baskets to go with two free throws from Tanecka Carey to put Murrah up 65-54 with 1:34 left.

Bunch finally ended WC’s drought with a layup with two seconds left to account for the final WC points. With both Chancellor and a University of Louisville assistant coach in attendance, it was Bunch who made the biggest leap forward with her team-best 22 points and five assists. Fifteen of her points came on 3-pointers, all well behind the line.

“I just played hard. We knew how good Murrah is — sixth in the nation,” said Bunch, a junior. “I mean, we did well considering (Sha’Kayla) Caples didn’t have her best game offensively. We just went through a stretch at the end where we couldn’t make nothing.”

Caples, the two-time Vicksburg Post Player of the Year, went 3-for-16 from the floor. She had just two points at the half and finished with nine for the game.

“Karnina had a great game,” Fuller said. “She stepped up big. I thought Brittany Erves and Vernadette Hale stepped up. But to play the No. 6 team in the country to nine points with our best player having her worst offensive game of the year says something. I still thought K (Caples) did some really good things. She played some of her best defense of the year. She just had an off night shooting.

“Overall, I’m really proud of the way our kids played.”

Murrah, whose only loss this season was to Brookhaven, was able to counter WC’s eight first-half 3-pointers by making 17 of 30 shots (57 percent). Barrett had 17 points by halftime as the Lady Mustangs led 39-34.

The pace slowed in the third quarter and Murrah went up seven before a basket by Caples and a 3-point play by Bunch made it 44-42. Murrah was up 50-46 when Bunch dialed in her 65-footer to make it 50-49.

“I can hit that shot, but that’s the longest one I’ve ever made,” Bunch said.

Simmons had 17 points and nine rebounds for Murrah. Tamecka Carey, another one of the state’s top juniors, had 14, including 12 on four 3-pointers.

Heather Casey had nine points, all on 3-pointers, for WC.

(B) WC 88, Murrah 75

The Vikings celebrated Senior Night with a season-high scoring outburst and a win.

Malcom Harper led four Vikings in double digits with 22 as WC improved to 5-23 heading into the Division 3-5A Tournament, which begins Tuesday at WC.

Martez Carroll fired in 20 while Dino Harris had 19 and Jeremye Smith chipped in 18 for the Vikings. WC led 48-22 at the half but watched the Mustangs trim it to seven at 78-71 with a minute left. Baskets by Carroll and Harper put the contest away.

Gary Love scored 22 of his game-best 31 points to lead the Murrah rally. Dondrecous Nelson scored 23 points.