Vikings beat Pearl in River City Challenge

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The end of football season always marks a new beginning for high school basketball teams, which receive an infusion of talented athletes from the gridiron.

Warren Central started blending those players back into the lineup this week and got a confidence boost in the process by beating Pearl 60-53 on Monday night in the inaugural River City Challenge.

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Jacques Jones and Chris Early led the Vikings (3-2) with 11 points apiece, and Chavis Smith scored eight. Jalen Allen and P.J. Mims, in their first basketball games of the season following the end of the football season last week, combined for seven points. Allen hit three key free throws down the stretch to help ice the victory.

Emmanuel Mukes led Pearl (3-3) with 19 points and Tavares Harper scored 16.

“That was a good win. A big win. We got an opportunity to get some of our football guys back, and we had a good practice (Sunday) trying to get those guys acclimated,” Warren Central assistant coach James Lewis said. “What I was most proud of was that most of those guys played — and not only played, but finished down the stretch and played well. You always want to get wins and get those guys motivated. We have a fresh group with these new faces and that win was good, especially going into the Thanksgiving break.”

Warren Central will have 10 days off before its next game Nov. 30 at Murrah, which will further help solidify a roster that’s in flux from top to bottom. In addition to the returning football players, head coach Bruce Robinson is out on medical leave until after Thanksgiving and the ninth-grade coach Lewis is filling in for him.

Robinson is expected back on the bench for the Vikings’ next game, and he’ll return to a team riding a two-game winning streak and coming off a hard-fought win over Pearl.

Warren Central led from the first quarter on, but never could pull away. It biggest lead was only 12 points, and it was 24-23 at halftime.

The Vikings managed to gain some needed separation by scoring six points in less than 10 seconds midway through the third quarter. Early scored and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Smith put the rebound back in, and then Jones stole the inbounds pass and hit a quick layup to make it 36-28.

The sequence sparked a 15-5 run that helped push Warren Central’s lead to 47-37 by the end of the third quarter. Pearl whittled that down to as few as four points in the fourth, but never again made it a one-possession game.

“It was huge, because I think we had pushed it up to 10 or 12 and the next thing we looked they had trimmed it down to six,” Lewis said. “That’s when I called a timeout and regrouped them and told them it’s all about small little victories. Small little rebounds, small free throws, small defensive stops. Those things led to a couple of leak-out layups.”

The third-quarter sequence also showed off something else Lewis said he was proud of — a bit of teamwork and everyone contributing. Eight players scored in the game for Warren Central.

“Individual guys played well, but as a group everybody did their job. That’s what I’m most proud of,” Lewis said. “From the big guys rebounding to the guards handling pressure, to guards defending their best shooters and fighting off of screens, they did a heck of a job. Everybody bought in. We did everything we practiced and they executed. It was a complete team victory.”

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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