Missy Gators hitting stride in playoffs

Published 11:30 am Monday, February 24, 2014

Vicksburg’s Breanna Foy, right, screams as she fights for a loose ball with Pearl’s Jaidha McClinton (32) during Friday’s Division 4-5A tournament championship game. Vicksburg will play at Canton tonight in a Class 5A North State satellite round game.

Vicksburg’s Breanna Foy, right, screams as she fights for a loose ball with Pearl’s Jaidha McClinton (32) during Friday’s Division 4-5A tournament championship game. Vicksburg will play at Canton tonight in a Class 5A North State satellite round game.

The Vicksburg Missy Gators might not win a state championship, and would need to do so just to get their record to .500. There’s a very good chance they might not even win 10 games this season.

For right now, though, none of that matters because of the simple fact that they still can do all of those things. The Missy Gators are one of the last 16 teams standing in Class 5A, and were the only fourth-place team to win a game in the state’s eight division tournaments. They also played some of their best basketball of the season in last week’s Division 4-5A Tournament.

Add it all up, and Vicksburg (9-14) is lurking as a potential Cinderella story heading into tonight’s North State satellite round game at Division 3-5A champion Canton (23-4).

“We’re the underdogs. But we’ve got something coming for them,” Vicksburg point guard Breanna Foy said. “I think we’re going to get better as the games go on. We made history. We’re the fourth seed and we beat the one seed. We’re proud of ourselves.”

Vicksburg lost six straight games heading into the division tournament, and did not win a division game in the regular season. It routed top-seeded Lanier in the first round, however, and hung tough until the final moments of a 63-58 loss to Pearl in the championship game.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Missy Gators’ turnaround was the way they corrected a couple of glaring weaknesses. After looking listless at times during their losing streak, the Missy Gators outrebounded both Lanier and Pearl and had 14 steals in the two games.

They also got on track from the free throw line against Pearl, hitting eight in a row to stay in the game during a key stretch of the fourth quarter. For the season, the Missy Gators have shot just 48 percent from the foul line as a team.

“I think they came together as a team, knowing they needed each other and that they’re stronger together than apart. After we lost that double overtime game (Feb. 4 at Lanier), we committed and we knew we could do it if we stick together the whole time, and we did,” VHS coach Barbara Hartzog said.

Now, the Missy Gators need to find a way to keep their momentum and their season going against a talented Canton team. Canton won 58-44 when the teams played on Nov. 26.

Since then, the Missy Gators have endured their up and down season while Canton has excelled. The Lady Panthers have won six consecutive games and 10 of 11 heading into tonight’s contest. Hartzog was hopeful that her team has found its footing and can ride its current wave of success into the rest of the North State tournament later this week.

“It’s a good challenge. We’ve got to go there, but we’ve got to just go in there and play and give it everything we’ve got,” Hartzog said. “If we go up there with the same intensity and the same fire, we’ve got a chance. Anything can happen. Nobody ever thought we’d beat Lanier, and they only beat Lanier by one. So anything can happen. It’s the same basketball court, same size and everything. They just have to get after it.”

Prep basketball playoffs

Today – girls

7 p.m. – Vicksburg at Canton

Tuesday – boys

7 p.m. – Vicksburg at Ridgeland

7 p.m. – St. Aloysius hosts Dexter

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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