Gators, Vikings qualify for state

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

Take one top-tier boys player and one top-tier girls player. Throw them together in a mixed doubles match, then stand back and watch.

For the Vicksburg Gators, that’s a recipe for success.

Donald Brown and Christine Figueroa, Vicksburg’s top singles players throughout the season, put aside their quest for individual state championships in the state tournament. They teamed up to play mixed doubles and got off to a great start by breezing to the Division 4-6A tournament championship Wednesday at Halls Ferry Park.

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Brown and Figueroa beat Greenville-Weston’s Lejearl Young and Jaslyn Barrow 6-0, 6-1 in the finals. They beat Warren Central’s Elizabeth Wooten and Parin Bhitka in a first-round match 6-0, 6-1 and advanced to the individual state tournament in Jackson on May 10 and 11.

Not bad for a team that, before Wednesday, had never played a competitive match together.

“Not formally, but we have played together in practice. We already know each other and have seen each other enough to know how we play. It takes work, but not as much as if we were just thrown together,” Brown said. “In the beginning of the year we asked if we could do it. So we’ve been preparing for it all year.”

Brown and Figueroa weren’t the only Gators to advance to the state tournament.

The boys’ doubles team of Fritz Valerio and Perry Tolliver lost in the finals of the No. 1 draw to Clinton’s Jake Files and Lee Prather, but bounced back to beat Warren Central’s Jesse Tillotson and Robert Rhett in the second-place match 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

In girls’ doubles, Amanda Guizerix and Charlene Figueroa blitzed through the No. 1 draw to win the division title. They didn’t drop a set, although they did have to work to keep the championship match from going to a dreaded third set.

Guizerix and Figueroa won a second-set tiebreaker against WC’s Lauren Pratt and Shelby Claire Liddell to win the match 6-4, 7-6 (7-1). In their first round match, the VHS team beat Greenville’s Kayla Gines and Cyan Jones 6-0, 6-0.

“A couple times we got scared. It was close. I’m very lucky to have Charlene as a partner. She’s very consistent,” Guizerix said. “We came back in the tiebreaker. The second set, they surprised us. We got desperate.”

Thanks to the tournament format, where the loser of the No. 1 doubles match plays the winner of the No. 2 draw for second place, Pratt and Liddell got another chance. They beat teammates Bailey Howington and Jill McVan 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the state tournament.

Pratt and Liddell’s comeback was part of an up-and-down day for Warren Central.

Braddock Oaks and Kaylee Kilgo made it to the finals of the boys’ and girls’ singles tournament, respectively, but neither advanced. Oaks battled cramps in the second set and lost to Clinton’s Eric Prather 6-3, 6-0, while Kilgo was bounced by Clinton’s Arthi Reddi 6-0, 6-0.

In boys’ doubles Stuart English and Jalen Dagher dropped a three-setter to Valerio and Tolliver, who then kept Tillotson and Rhett from advancing.

Still, with only two seniors on the team — Howington and McVan — WC coach Paige Pratt was happy with her team’s effort. She said a strong showing like this one, even if it didn’t end quite the way the Vikings would have liked, will give them something to build on.

“It was a real good day. We would’ve liked our boys’ doubles to have won, but we’ve had three close matches with them this week. We did good in every area we should have,” Pratt said. “This year has been much better. We were competitive in every area.”

Contact Ernest Bowker at