Gators, Missy Gators want consistency at holiday tournament

Published 8:38 am Monday, December 28, 2015

The Vicksburg Gators are a basketball team in search of their own identity.

The Gators (6-5) alternated winning and losing streaks over the first six weeks of the season as they adjusted to life without star forward Kirk Parker. They’ll ride a two-game losing streak into the Northwest Rankin Holiday Tournament, where they’ll play Brookhaven (10-0) today and New Hope (9-1) on Tuesday. Both tournament games begin at 12:30 p.m.

The outcome against those tough opponents isn’t as important, coach Dellie C. Robinson said, as finding a style that works in time for the division opener Jan. 8 against Ridgeland.

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“They’re not important as far as wins and losses are concerned, but they’re very, very important as far as team chemistry is concerned and kids playing together, learning, running the offense and doing the little things it takes to win ballgames. These next few games are going to be crucial for us come January,” Robinson said.

The Gators started the season 3-0, but have struggled since Parker suffered an elbow injury in a 49-45 win over Terry on Nov. 12. The 6-foot-5 junior is the team’s best rebounder and primary inside scoring threat. His absence has created a void that has forced the Gators to adapt to a more fast-paced style.

They haven’t adapted well.

“We’ve got to try and get out and run more, but we can’t rebound without Kirk,” Robinson said. “So we have a hard time trying to run because we can’t get the rebounds. Right now, it’s just not working.”

Guard Kenneth Murphy, the team’s leading scorer last season, is once again averaging in double figures. For Vicksburg to be successful over the long haul, however, it’ll need some second and third options to step up.

Robinson is hoping the holiday tournament season provides an opportunity for them to do it.

“I really think when we get to district that a lot of kids are going to play some minutes that normally wouldn’t play,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we can find some rhythm, and somebody other than K.J. can hit some shots for us.”

While the Gators try to find themselves, the Missy Gators are just trying to find some traction.

Vicksburg is 7-5 heading into Monday’s Northwest Rankin tournament opener against Terry (9-3), but like the boys has alternated winning and losing often enough that its record might not be indicative of the team’s skill level.

The Missy Gators lost two in a row — including a 60-45 loss to Terry on Nov. 12 — then won six of the next seven before losing both games at the Ridgeland Titans Shootout Dec. 18 and 19.

The second loss in Ridgeland was an embarrassing 66-10 defeat against Murrah in which Vicksburg’s top two players did not play. Forward Karry Callahan was resting a sore ankle she had injured the day before against Clinton, and point guard Keiyana Gaskin was benched for disciplinary reasons.

The Northwest Rankin tournament will be the middle part of a difficult stretch for the Missy Gators in which six out of seven games are against Class 6A schools. The other one is the division opener with Ridgeland.

After facing Terry, Vicksburg will play tournament host Northwest Rankin Tuesday at 5 p.m.

“These next four games are 6A schools. These are the teams we’ve got to compete against in order to get better. We take two steps forward and one step or two back,” Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog said. “This will really tell what kind of team we are, because these are 6A schools. That’s who you’ve got to compete with.”

Up next

Northwest Rankin Holiday Tournament


Girls – Vicksburg vs. Terry, 11 a.m.

Boys – Vicksburg vs. Brookhaven, 12:30 p.m.


Boys – Vicksburg vs. New Hope, 12:30 p.m.

Girls – Vicksburg vs. Northwest Rankin, 5 p.m.

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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