Warren Central set for JPS Tournament

Published 9:03 am Thursday, December 24, 2015

At the halfway point in the basketball season, coaches use holiday tournaments to keep their players fresh and hone their skills before district play.

Jackson Public Schools’ Pepsi Holiday Tournament will begin Saturday featuring 24 teams including Warren Central, which will play Jim Hill in its first-round games at Provine High School.

The Lady Vikes tip off at 2 p.m. and the Vikings at 3:30 p.m. The tournament will continue Monday and Tuesday with consolation and championship bracket games at Provine, Lanier and Forest Hill High Schools.

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Warren Central boys coach Bruce Robinson called the JPS tournament one of the most prestigious holiday tournaments in the area. A good showing would catapult the Vikings into the Division 3-6A schedule which begins Jan. 12 at Clinton.

“I actually saw Jim Hill play Clinton,” Robinson said. “They played a little dribble drive, they’re not as big as other teams we’re going to play, and they’re scrappy. Most JPS teams are going to play you tough.”

Robinson wants to develop an inside game and said his team has a slight size advantage against the Tigers. He looks to incorporate the zone defense more against Jim Hill since it has had trouble keeping people out of the paint and protecting the rim. He also wants to open up the floor and have the Vikings play baseline-to-baseline so his athletes can showcase their athleticism on both sides of the floor.

In its last game against Cleveland, Warren Central was in control up until the last minute. It allowed the Wildcats to tie the game at 48 by not protecting the paint and giving up easy layups.

“We’ve got to get better defensively. We’re only going to be as good as our defense is. If we don’t play defense we’re not going to beat anybody,” Robinson said.

To start the season, the Vikings were without a few key players who were still with the football team. Since Jesse Wilson, Raleigh Floyd and Shunterrance Walton have returned to basketball, the Vikings have found their offensive stride.

Walton has averaged 20 points per game to give the Vikings a needed scoring. Floyd has given them a rebounding presence and Wilson has been a solid point guard.

The Lady Vikes also take on Jim Hill in the first round and coach Jackie Martin-Glass told her team that whoever could minimize mistakes and impose its will, usually wins the game.

“It’s an opportunity for me to get my girls some games in before we start our district play in January,” Martin-Glass said. “Instead of taking a break and going home and sitting down for Christmas or coming here just practicing because that can get very boring, we get into a tournament were we can actually compete, travel and get some exposure.

“Hopefully if we can fare well in this tournament, it kind of gets you up in the rankings, gets you noticed and gets your team on the map.”

The Lady Vikes will head into the tournament without Cocoa Fultz, who is sidelined with a grade two ankle sprain after rolling it in a practice two weeks ago. She is out until January.

For the Lady Vikes, the tournament is a chance to benchmark itself and tinker with any problems they might have before heading into a difficult division schedule. Warren Central faces solid competition with teams like Murrah, Greenville and Clinton.

Every win is important for the Lady Vikes to help build confidence. They’re still young and developing, with nine sophomores, a freshman, two juniors and one senior.

“Everything changes so you can’t take it for granted. It’s a pretty competitive district,” Martin-Glass said. “Everybody knows this is the time where if you lose your first or second game, you’ll be done for the season. Everybody plays extra hard, intensity picks up because nobody wants to go home.”

If the Lady Vikes beat Jim Hill, they’ll face the winner of the Provine-Greenville game Monday at 1 p.m. at Forest Hill.

If they lose Saturday, they’ll play the Forest Hill-Wingfield loser Monday at 10 a.m. at Forest Hill.