Missy Gators beat top seed in tourney

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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PEARL — The Vicksburg Missy Gators got the matchup they wanted, and the win they needed.
They stormed out of the gate to take a 20-point lead in the first half, and finished strong in the second to beat top-seeded Lanier 54-46 in the first round of the Division 4-5A Tournament Tuesday at Pearl High School.
Vicksburg (9-14) won its first game in the division tournament since 2007, and advanced to Friday night’s championship game against Pearl. VHS also secured a spot in the Class 5A North State satellite round next week.
Pearl beat Callaway 67-61 in the other first-round game Tuesday.
“We’ve always been one or two in district and gotten beat. So to be fourth and beat the one, it was good. Both times in the regular season it was close games anyway,” Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog said. “The last time we played them we went to double overtime and lost. We said we had 21 days to get ready. We committed to those 21 days for nothing else but basketball. It paid off. This is a good win. I’ll take that over anything.”
The Missy Gators had lost six straight games entering the tournament, and were winless within the division in the regular season. They had, however, played two close games against Lanier (12-11) and had known for two weeks that it‘d be their first-round opponent. That gave them time to prepare and reason to be confident about the matchup, and it showed.
Vicksburg came flying out of the gate and never trailed. Shears hit three long jumpers during a 10-2 run late in the first quarter that gave the Missy Gators a double-digit lead. They extended it to 20 midway through the second quarter, and the final eight-point margin was as close as Lanier ever got.
Shears scored 15 of her game-high 18 points in the first half, while Kailin Young added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Karry Callahan only had six points, but finished with 14 rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocked shots.
Brittany Rose led Lanier with 22 points. No other Lady Bulldog scored more than six.
“(Hartzog) told us to stay together, so that was what we did was try to stay together and play as a team and not as an individual,” Shears said. “It was a big game. You have to show up. It was a very big run (in the first quarter). It pushed us more so we could keep that lead and keep us up.”

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(B) VHS 65, Pearl 47
One of Vicksburg’s biggest stars burned bright enough to melt the Pearl Pirates on Tuesday.
De’Angelo Richardson ripped off 11 straight points, on three 3-pointers and a layup, in a two-minute stretch early in the third quarter to blow open the game and lead the Gators to an easy victory over the homestanding Pirates (15-11) in the first round of the boys Division 4-5A Tournament.
Richardson hit five 3-pointers in the game and finished with 19 points, while De’Vonta Brisco scored 18. Richardson’s personal 11-1 run in the third quarter turned a hard-earned nine-point lead at halftime into a 19-point cushion. It was a huge lift for the Gators (16-6), who wasted a 13-point halftime lead and lost in their last visit to Pearl on Jan. 17.
“I knew we had to get some momentum from somewhere since it’s their home court, and last time we blew our lead. I figured if I could get us going we could get on a little run and we could keep it up. I knew we needed a big enough lead to help if we started turning it over late. I think that lead helped us out a little bit,” said Richardson, who is the team’s leading scorer this season. “The first one went in, and I was like, ‘I’m going to keep shooting.’ It was questionable the last one I pulled but when I shot it, it came off good so I was happy it went in.”
Up next for the Gators is round three with mighty Callaway (26-1), which dispatched Lanier 66-48 in the other first-round game Tuesday. Callaway has won 15 consecutive games, including two over Vicksburg that weren’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.
“We feel like we can beat them on a neutral court. We really do,” Richardson said. “This will show Friday where we’re at.”

(G) Cathedral 46, St. Al 42
St. Aloysius, playing without three starters, turned in a spirited performance but couldn’t hold on to a slim fourth-quarter lead and had its season end with a loss to Cathedral in the first round of the girls Division 7-1A Tournament.
St. Al (12-13) led by two points entering the final period, but three costly turnovers allowed Cathedral to gain the lead and secure the win.
Alyssa Engel led the Lady Flashes with 20 points and Michelle Howington scored 11. St. Al was without starters Avery Parham and Allie Willis, who were sick, and Grace Upshaw, who has a torn ACL.

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 reporters in the paper's 139-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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