Gators take another shot at Callaway

Published 3:00 pm Monday, January 5, 2015

Vicksburg High forward Kirk Parker (23) tries to shoot under the basket as Terry’s K.T. Taylor (3) defends. Parker and the Gators will take on Callaway Tuesday night in Jackson in a rematch of last season's Class 5A championship game. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg High forward Kirk Parker (23) tries to shoot under the basket as Terry’s K.T. Taylor (3) defends. Parker and the Gators will take on Callaway Tuesday night in Jackson in a rematch of last season’s Class 5A championship game. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

The Vicksburg Gators are about to take their shot at the Big Bad Wolf.

The Gators head to Jackson on Tuesday night to take on All-America guard Malik Newman and the Callaway Chargers. It’s a rematch of last year’s Class 5A championship game — as well as the North State championship game, the Division 4-5A tournament championship game, and two other regular-season meetings.

Callaway won them all, handing Vicksburg five of its nine losses last season. Both teams have had some alterations to their rosters since then, but there’s enough holdovers to leave the Gators badly wanting a victory. If not for revenge, then at least for self-satisfaction.

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“I told my assistant coaches, if we can beat them one time I’ll go ahead and retire,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said with a laugh. “So you know how bad I want to beat them.”

Last season’s series played out as an ongoing drama between the two best teams in Class 5A. Callaway, the reigning champ, proved worthy of its title with the season sweep.

This year, things are murkier. Newman is back and as dominant as ever. He’s averaging 29.6 points per game — he dropped 44 on Wingfield on Dec. 27 and 50 on Provine two days later to lead Callaway to the Jackson Public Schools Tournament championship — and the Chargers have an 11-3 record heading into Tuesday’s Division 4-5A opener.

The Chargers are more than just Newman, though. Three other players are averaging double figures in points, and they have four starters 6-foot-4 or taller.

“They might be better this year than last year,” Robinson said. “They’ve got a 6-7, a 6-8 down on the block. They’re more athletic, run the floor better, they’re a lot taller than last year. Malik is playing the point at 6-5. We’re going to have our hands full, no question about it. We’re going to try to find a way to stay with them.”

Vicksburg, meanwhile, is a bit of an enigma. It’s also 11-3, but has undergone a near-total makeover from last season.

Instead of the guard-oriented lineup they used the past three seasons, the Gators are winning with a strong post game powered by forwards Khris Walker and Kirk Parker. Walker is averaging just 4.0 points per game, but had 14 in a 68-44 win over Terry in the Gators’ last game on Dec. 29. Parker is averaging 9.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.

Vicksburg can also run when needed. Guard K.J. Murphy leads the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game. While Walker and Parker will have to do their best to hang with Callaway’s big bodies in the post, Robinson said it’s likely that Murphy and his fellow guards will wind up being the key to winning or losing.

“There’s very few teams that can match up with Callaway. But certainly, if you’re going to have an opportunity to beat Callaway you’re going to have to have real good guard play,” Robinson said. “I think your guards have to be the key, because they’re so long and they get out and knock it back from the wing. If you don’t have good guard play, it’s going to be a long night for you.”

Whether it’s a long night or a great one, one thing is clear — this is only round one, and it’ll likely be long forgotten by the end of the season. Much like last year, the Chargers and Gators appear to be the two best teams in Division 4-5A and destined for several more meetings before all is said and done.

With that in mind, Robinson said Tuesday’s game is as much, if not more, of a scouting mission than a game his team truly needs to win.

“Once we play them and figure out what we can do and what we can’t do against them, I think by the time district (tournament) comes we’ll be able to play them a lot better,” Robinson said.

Up next

Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Vicksburg at Callaway

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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