Lady Vikes, Gators prep for division championship games

Published 12:19 pm Friday, February 10, 2012

For the most part, the last month of the regular season was a nightmare for the Vicksburg Gators and Warren Central Lady Vikes.

Both teams entered the Division 3-6A Tournament riding long losing streaks — Vicksburg’s was six games, WC’s stood at seven — and their records are so far below .500 that not even a run to the state championship would guarantee a winning record.

And yet, none of that matters right now. The Gators and Lady Vikes are still standing, after pulling off upsets in the first round of the division tournament.

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Warren Central will face Greenville-Weston in the girls’ championship game Friday night at 6, and Vicksburg plays tournament host Clinton for the boys’ title at 7:30. Win or lose, both Warren County teams will also play in the Class 6A North State satellite game Monday or Tuesday.

“Whether it was Vicksburg, it could have been Clinton or Greenville, just the fact we’re going on to the next round and playing for the championship salvages the whole year,” said WC coach Jackie Martin-Brown, whose team advanced with a 39-37 win over Vicksburg. “You get a chance to play for the championship and you kind of forget everything behind you. You just look forward to saying ‘I’ve got a shot at district, to play the first game at home and move on.’”

The Lady Vikes (9-16) snapped their seven-game slide, the last six of which came by double digits, by beating archrival Vicksburg. Two of those losses were to Greenville-Weston (20-7), which poses a formidable challenge.

The Honey Bees had to scrap to beat Clinton, 41-37, in their division tournament opener, but also feature one of the best players in the state. South Alabama signee Brianna Wright scored 25 and 27 points in the two regular-season victories over WC.

Martin-Brown said neutralizing Wright was the key to Friday’s third meeting.

“You’ve got to stop her,” Martin-Brown said. “If we can force her to take some shots that aren’t right around the block, we might have a better shot. We may press them some, make it not so easy for them to get it to her. To beat Greenville, you have to get the ball out of her hands. And the way you get it out of her hands is to not get it in her hands.”

The Gators (10-15), meanwhile, need to find a way over the hump against Clinton (22-5). The Arrows won both regular-season games, 57-46 and 48-41. Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said it’s encouraging to know his team can play with as talented a squad as Clinton is, but must avoid the mistakes that proved so costly in the earlier meetings.

“We were right there at home. We made some key turnovers and took a couple bad shots. I think we had an opportunity to win, and I think we’re going to have an opportunity to win on Friday,” Robinson said.

Sophomore guard DeAndre King added that keeping the momentum rolling from Tuesday’s opening-round win is also crucial. Vicksburg jumped ahead of Greenville-Weston 16-0 early and never trailed, although its lead dwindled to four late in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve just got to come out playing the same way we did today,“ King said after scoring 16 points in Tuesday’s 69-64 win. “We play like we did today, we’ll give them a run.”