Vicksburg opens tourney play at Pearl

Published 9:45 am Monday, February 17, 2014

Division tournament schedules
Division 4-6A
At Murrah High School
Girls
Today
Warren Central vs. Clinton, 6 p.m.
Tuesday
Murrah vs. Greenville-Weston, 6 p.m.
Friday
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Boys
Today
Greenville-Weston vs. Warren Central, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday
Clinton vs. Murrah, 7:30 p.m.
Friday
Championship game, 7:30 p.m.
———
Division 4-5A
At Pearl High School
Girls
Tuesday
Vicksburg vs. Lanier, 4 p.m.
Callaway vs. Pearl, 7 p.m.
Friday
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Boys
Tuesday
Lanier vs. Callaway, 5:30 p.m.
Pearl vs. Vicksburg, 8:30 p.m.
Friday
Championship game, 7:30 p.m.

Vicksburg guard De’Vonta Brisco shoots a layup against Callaway this season. The Gators open the Division 4-5A at Pearl Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. The Gators would advance to the championship game Friday with a victory against the winner of Lanier and Callaway.

Vicksburg guard De’Vonta Brisco shoots a layup against Callaway this season. The Gators open the Division 4-5A at Pearl Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. The Gators would advance to the championship game Friday with a victory against the winner of Lanier and Callaway.

All season long, the Vicksburg Gators’ goal was to steer clear of a first-round elimination game in the division tournament with Callaway. A third matchup with one of the state’s best teams and one of the country’s best players, Malik Newman, in a do-or-die game was not the way anyone wanted to start the playoffs.
The Gators accomplished their goal by finishing second in Division 4-5A and now get to collect a prize with all the charm of a broken toaster from “Let’s Make a Deal” — a rematch with a quality Pearl team on its home floor on Tuesday night.
It’s a matchup Pearl (15-10) has already won once this season, and a challenge the Gators (15-7) know they’ll have to bring their best effort to overcome this time around.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got to find a way to win. That’s the bottom line,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “They’ve got good athletes over there. It’s going to be a tough game, but we’ll take our chances with Pearl any day over Callaway. It’s no slight toward Pearl, because Pearl’s got a good team. It’s just playing the No. 1 team in the state versus a team that’s not ranked, you’re going to take the team that’s not ranked every time. We know it’s not going to be easy.”
Pearl beat Vicksburg 62-58 in their first meeting in Pearl on Jan. 17, then lost 37-29 in Vicksburg two weeks later. Two hard-fought games has created respect between the teams, as well as the knowledge that round three will likely be another slugfest decided in the fourth quarter.
“We know each other real well. Now it’s going to be about execution,” Robinson said. “We know what they’re going to run. We know who their good players are, they know who our good players are. Now it’s going to be about execution and who can make plays coming down the stretch. The ballgame is going to come down to the fourth quarter, and whoever makes plays in the last two or three minutes and makes free throws is going to be the team that wins that game.”
If the Gators can get by Pearl, a third matchup with Callaway likely awaits in the championship game on Friday night. Callaway (25-1) will face Lanier (10-11) in the other first-round game on Tuesday. Callaway won the two meetings with Lanier by 32 and 14 points.
Vicksburg played Callaway tough twice, losing by seven both times. The Gators would love another crack at the division’s titan, just not before they’ve had a chance to extend the season and have a little fun in the playoffs.
“It’s a lot better. Everybody knows you don’t want to play Callaway the first round. We don’t mind playing them, just not in the first round,” VHS point guard Edward Davis said. “We’ll see them in the championship.”
Vicksburg’s girls, meanwhile, also got the first-round matchup they wanted. The Missy Gators (8-14) will face top-seeded Lanier (12-10), which survived a pair of close calls when the teams met in the regular season. Vicksburg entered the fourth quarter with a lead before losing 62-51 in their first meeting on Jan. 24, then lost in double overtime in the rematch in Jackson on Feb. 4.
Although Vicksburg didn’t win a division game this season and enters the tournament on a six-game losing streak, coach Barbara Hartzog said the two competitive games with Lanier have provided a sense that it’s a favorable — and winnable — matchup.
“I think the pressure’s more on them than us, because we were in the game both times. That last one, especially. We had the shot in regulation and missed it, and two free throws in overtime that we missed,” VHS coach Barbara Hartzog said, adding with a laugh, “Maybe it was good that we choked on that one.”
The season has largely been a forgettable one for the Missy Gators. They’ve lost 8 of 10 since New Year’s, enter the division tournament as the No. 4 seed, and appear to be a longshot to contend for a state championship. Winning Tuesday, however, would erase a lot of bad memories and give a team with five members of its regular nine-person rotation returning next season something to build on.
“It’s over. Everybody’s at zero. It’s a whole new postseason. All those games we played, all that is is under my name. They’re not going to say they’re 8-14. It doesn’t matter. That game on Feb. 18, all these games were to get ready for that game. Now we have to see if we’re ready for it,” Hartzog said. “They’re a lot stronger together than they are apart, if they’ll just bring that on the court.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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