Missy Gators shove Ridgeland aside

Published 8:17 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As usual, Mikayla Banks carried the bulk of the offensive load for the Vicksburg Missy Gators. One of her teammates, however, found the perfect time to slip her own highlight into Banks’ regular montage.

Jamie Gilliam scored the go-ahead goal on a free kick in the 69th minute, and Banks had four others throughout the game, as the Missy Gators earned a crucial division win over Ridgeland, 5-3 on Monday night.

Gilliam gently lifted her free kick from about 20 yards away, over the defensive line and past Ridgeland keeper Harmony Porter to snap a 3-all tie. Banks, who had scored the equalizer a minute before Gilliam’s tiebreaker, added another goal in the 75th minute to seal it.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“When we usually have close kicks like that I take them because I’m able to lift it and get it in the goal like I did tonight,” said Gilliam, a senior. “It’s a rush. Just amazing. You try so hard and it finally goes in. It’s a relief.”

Banks’ last goal did more than put an exclamation point on the victory. Vicksburg and Ridgeland are the top two teams in Division 4-5A, and will play again Jan. 19 in Ridgeland. The tiebreaker is aggregate goals, so Ridgeland will need to win by at least two in the rematch to claim the division title.

Vicksburg (5-4, 3-0 Division 4-5A) needs to win against Ridgeland, or not lose by more than two goals — plus beat Canton twice — to earn its third division championship in four years and the right to host a first-round game in the Class 5A playoffs.

“We know now what we have to fix and what we have to do to beat them. It was kind of scary when they tied it back up,” Banks said.

With Canton and Lanier struggling and non-factors in the division race, it’s almost always seemed a foregone conclusion that Vicksburg and Ridgeland will emerge as Division 4-5A’s two playoff teams, and their two head-to-head meetings will decide the division championship. They engaged in a pitched battle for the upper hand in round one Monday.

Ridgeland got on the board first with an own goal credited to Nichole Erwin, but Banks scored twice to give Vicksburg a 2-1 lead at halftime. Banks also hit the crossbar once and missed two other shots from point-blank range that could have turned it into a rout early on.

“I think I’m always leaning back or feel too confident of getting a goal and I just shank it and mess it up,” said Banks, who now has 35 goals this season. “They had me marked tight the whole game.”

Ridgeland seized the momentum in the second half, putting the clamps on Banks and scoring two straight goals to take the lead. Haley Shelby scored in the 41st minute and Eden Moorehead in the 60th to put the Lady Titans in front, 3-2.

The Missy Gators finally found their mojo, however. Banks scored on a breakaway in the 68th minute to tie it, and then Gilliam’s free kick goal 60 seconds later put them in front to stay.

Banks’ capper came when she collected a loose ball about 10 yards in front of the goal, wheeled and shot it past Porter to make it 5-3.

“I guess us talking to each other,” Banks said in explaining the late scoring flurry. “We just kept motivating each other, and we felt like we could do it. We could beat them. It had everybody pumped up and we handled our business.”

(B) Ridgeland 7, Vicksburg 0

Timothy Smith scored early in the first half to get the ball rolling on a Ridgeland avalanche, as the Titans routed Vicksburg to all but clinch the Division 4-5A championship.

The teams will play again on Jan. 19 in Ridgeland, but Vicksburg (4-6, 2-1 Division 4-5A) would need to sweep its season series with Canton and then beat Ridgeland (4-9-1, 2-0) by at least seven goals to have a chance at the title.

Vicksburg can still clinch a berth in the Class 5A playoffs by beating struggling Canton (1-6, 0-1) twice.

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.

email author More by Ernest