Missy Gators are flying high

Published 11:39 am Friday, February 21, 2014

PEARL — Maybe the Vicksburg Missy Gators were going about it all wrong.
For the last six seasons, they’d finished in the top half of their division in the regular season, then flamed out in the first round of the league tournament. An extension of that streak to seven years seemed entirely possible after they went 0-6 in the division and entered this season’s tournament with an 8-14 overall record.
A funny thing happened on the way to another season of mediocrity, however. The Missy Gators’ subpar regular season matched them up with top-seeded Lanier, a team they led in the fourth quarter in one meeting and took to double overtime in another. In Tuesday’s rubber match, the Missy Gators blasted Lanier 54-46 to advance to their first division tournament and satellite round game since 2007.
“The bad things we went through helped us get to this point,” Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog said. “Everybody worries about our record. But the record is over with. You start up new. All those games you play is to get to this. To get to know each other better. To get the confidence in each other, to work together. You want to be good at the end, so maybe we’re peaking at the right time.”
The trick now is to bottle up the energy and enthusiasm the Missy Gators showed in Tuesday’s opener, and make it last a week or more. They used a 10-2 run in the first quarter to eventually open a 20-point lead as they outhustled and outworked Lanier. The margin didn’t get closer than nine points until Lanier’s LaPorshea Porter scored with 15 seconds left in the game for the 54-46 final margin.
Up next for the Missy Gators is Pearl in tonight’s championship game, and then an elimination game in the Class 5A satellite round against Canton or Neshoba Central on Monday night. Vicksburg will host Monday’s game if it wins the division tournament, and be on the road if it loses.
The Missy Gators’ track record is not good against their upcoming foes.
Pearl (14-12) won both regular-season meetings between the teams, by 21 and 16 points. Canton beat the Missy Gators 58-44 back in late November. Vicksburg has not played Neshoba Central this season.
Of course, Hartzog noted, the record wasn’t very good against anyone else either, and so far things have worked out.
“Everybody beat us. We were 0-6,” Hartzog said with a laugh. “We just have to believe in each other and get our gameplan together. We’ve got two days. We’ll come back Friday ready to play. Win or lose, our best effort. We play Monday no matter what.”

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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 140-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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