Missy Gators’ run ends with loss

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vicksburg High’s Keiyana Gaskin passes the ball in front of Canton’s Equanya Fleming during Monday’s Class 5A playoff game. Defending state champion Canton eliminated the Missy Gators with a 52-39 win.

Vicksburg High’s Keiyana Gaskin passes the ball in front of Canton’s Equanya Fleming during Monday’s Class 5A playoff game. Defending state champion Canton eliminated the Missy Gators with a 52-39 win.

Vicksburg High players Monique Jones (30), Ruddie Shears (15) and Kailin Young (10) walk off the court following Monday’s playoff loss to Canton.

Vicksburg High players Monique Jones (30), Ruddie Shears (15) and Kailin Young (10) walk off the court following Monday’s playoff loss to Canton.

CANTON — Part of any winning formula for Vicksburg High on Monday night involved catching defending Class 5A champion Canton on an off night.

The Missy Gators did that. The problem was, they had a bad night, too.

Vicksburg shot just 24.1 percent (14-for-58) from the field — a number buoyed by a strong fourth quarter — and lost to Canton, 52-39, in a Class 5A North State satellite game. The final score was as close as the game got in the second half. Canton led by 26 points entering the fourth quarter.

“They (Canton) were lackadaisical, but we were even more effortless. We picked it up too late,” Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog said. “If we’d have come out like we did last week, we could’ve given them a better game. It seemed like they dropped their heads and couldn’t get them back up.”

Equanya Fleming led Canton (24-4) with 15 points, and Andreal Fleming scored 13.The Lady Tigers advanced to face Clarksdale in the North State tournament on Friday night.

Karry Callahan led Vicksburg (9-16) with 18 points — 15 of them scored in the fourth quarter — and 16 rebounds. Callahan also had five steals and four assists. Ruddie Shears and Kailin Young scored eight points apiece.

The Missy Gators’ loss brought an anticlimactic end to a topsy-turvy season. They won just one of their last eight games, but seemed to be headed in the right direction after a strong run in the Division 4-5A Tournament last week. Then they scored 17 points in the first three quarters Monday and didn’t get on track offensively until it was far too late to do more than make the final score a little more respectable.

“It’s disappointing, because we wanted to go to the next step. But we didn’t do what it takes to get to the next step,” said VHS guard Keiyana Gaskin, who had three assists and six rebounds.

Vicksburg’s shooting woes started early. While Canton also struggled in the first quarter, the Missy Gators missed a host of shots and only scored five points. Worse, Canton was able to control the offensive boards and limit Vicksburg to one shot on most possessions.

Canton started to pull away midway through the second quarter. Salleria Travis hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper on back-to-back possessions to give the Lady Tigers a 25-8 lead with 3:55 left. She added another 3-pointer before the half as Canton took a 28-12 lead into the locker room.

Vicksburg didn’t score in the last 5 minutes of the third quarter, which allowed Canton to really put the game out of reach. The Lady Tigers finished the period with a 10-0 run to go up 43-17. Although Vicksburg outscored Canton 22-9 in the fourth quarter, the Lady Tigers were never threatened.

“When they were up 25, we gave up, which we shouldn’t have. We tried to come back at the last minute, which wasn’t going to help us. The only thing that could’ve helped was we should’ve made better decisions and came out playing harder than we did,” Gaskin said. “Nothing they did stopped us from playing our game. We did it to ourselves. We threw the ball away. We made bad decisions. We made bad shots.”

Hartzog said that, while a loss to a quality team like Canton wasn’t unexpected or even frustrating, the fact the Missy Gators so badly hurt themselves was a letdown.

“Nobody’s mad, but everybody’s disappointed,” Hartzog said. “They’re the defending 5A champ, but they were beatable.”

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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