Warren Central playing for two division titles Friday

Published 9:03 am Thursday, February 16, 2017

Warren Central girls’ basketball coach Jackie Martin-Glass has started a photo collection this winter. Every time the Lady Vikes win a tournament, big or small, she gathers her players at center court for a team photo that then goes up in a frame in the locker room.

There’s already two hanging there from the Jackson Public Schools Tournament and the Red Carpet Classic, and there’s plenty of room on the wall for a few more.

“We’ve been looking at every tournament, we won. The JPS Tournament, we won. Our Red Carpet Classic, we won. So we’re framing different championships. I’ve got an empty frame in there waiting on a district championship,” Martin-Glass said.

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The Lady Vikes will get their chance to add to the collection Friday night, when they host Murrah at 6 p.m. in the Division 4-6A tournament championship game. While this is the first step toward a much larger goal, it’s an important one in itself. Warren Central has not won the division title since 2009. Winning this trophy would be a major milestone for a program that has spent the better part of a decade in various stages of rebuilding.

“It’s been a while, so I’m excited to get a chance to play for it again,” said Martin-Glass, who has gotten WC to the division tournament title game twice in her eight seasons as coach but has never won it.

Murrah (20-6), the defending Class 6A champion, is a formidable obstacle for the Lady Vikes (22-7). The teams have played three times this season — two division games and once in the JPS Tournament in December — and Warren Central has won twice. The three games have been decided by a total of 12 points.

The key to winning round four of their season-long rivalry, Martin-Glass said, was getting back to what made the Lady Vikes a team on the rise in the first three-fourths of the season.

Warren Central has allowed an average of just 35.3 points per game for the season, but went over that number in four of its last five regular-season games. In that span, it lost twice and gutted out two other close wins.

“Early on, in the JPS Tournament, we were holding teams to 30 points,” Martin-Glass said after the Lady Vikes beat Greenville 47-26 in the first round of the division tournament on Monday night. “Lately, when we get beat or barely win, we allow teams to get 50 points and more. So we’re going to look at Clinton and Murrah and work on our defensive strategy, and not allowing these opportunities around the goal.”

After the Lady Vikes try to end their eight-year championship drought, Warren Central’s boys’ team will try to stop an even longer streak. The Vikings haven’t won a division championship since 2004. They lost in the 2013 tournament final to Vicksburg, which coincidentally was also the last time they hosted the division tournament.

Warren Central (11-14) will play Murrah (19-4) in the boys’ championship game at 7:30 Friday night. Like the girls’ team, it’s a tough matchup for the tournament hosts. Murrah won 82-56 and 84-51 in two regular-season meetings and has won four of the past five head-to-head matchups.

This championship game, however, is about more than a trophy for WC coach Bruce Robinson. Since being hired in 2012, he’s been on a mission to change the program’s long tradition of losing and mediocrity. This season has fallen mostly into the latter category, but a victory Friday night would put an end to that.

Just as important, it would be a big step forward for the program as a whole.

“I tell the kids all the time that I think the culture has changed. We’ve got faithful fans. We’ve got butts in the seats. The next step is to win consistently. If you can’t win consistently in the regular season, you have to step up and win in the playoffs,” Robinson said. “Being able to play for a district championship, and this is the second time, it bodes well for the program. You want your program at that level. Not everybody is going to play for a district championship this week, but Warren Central is.”

There’s also a tangible reward for the Vikings if they beat Murrah. The division champion gets a bye in the first round of the state tournament and doesn’t have to play until hosting a second-round game next Friday. The second-place team still gets a home game, but has to play Tuesday and then go on the road for the second round.

Either way, getting to this point is beneficial to their long-term chances in the state tournament.

“The district we’re matched up against, we have a fighting chance,” Robinson said. “Especially playing at home. We don’t have to get on a bus next Tuesday and travel. That’s huge. Most teams that play at home, move on.”

At Warren Central
Thursday, 6 p.m. – Greenville vs. Clinton (consolation)
Friday, 6 p.m. – Warren Central vs. Murrah (championship)
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. – Greenville vs. Clinton (consolation)
Friday, 7:30 p.m. – WC vs. Murrah (championship)

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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