Postponements, adjustments force VHS to play three road games in three days

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018

First, it was frozen pipes. Then, freezing weather.

Vicksburg High’s basketball teams haven’t been able to catch a lot of breaks lately on the court or off.

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The Gators and Missy Gators will begin a brutal stretch of three road games in three days Thursday night when they take on Ridgeland in a Division 4-5A matchup. They’ll go to Jackson to face Callaway on Friday, and then across town to Warren Central to play in the Red Carpet Basketball Classic Saturday afternoon.

It’s a situation caused by schedule changes and quirks over the past two weeks, and is one big, unprecedented headache for both teams.

“No. Never. Not back-to-back-to-back. And it’s four if you think about this one,” VHS boys coach Kelvin Carter said of the three-in-three stretch, and after his team also played Monday afternoon at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Basketball Classic in Jackson. “It’s tough, practice-wise, because you can’t get any practice in. You’re actually practicing in the game.”

The packed schedule became a reality last Friday when — despite there being no precipitation in the area — Ridgeland postponed its games against VHS because of travel concerns. As the home team, Ridgeland had final say on a makeup date and picked Thursday night to accommodate its own schedule.

Vicksburg already had the Friday-Saturday double to contend with, but it became a road tripleheader earlier last week when a number of broken water mains in Jackson forced it to swap home dates with Callaway. The teams played in Vicksburg last week and will play in Jackson Friday night.

Less than 24 hours after that, the Missy Gators will play Forest Hill in the Red Carpet Basketball Classic at 1 p.m. at Warren Central. The boys’ team will play Port Gibson at 2:30.

“In my coaching career, this is the first time that’s ever happened. So I’m sure it’s going to be hard. It’s hard to get the girls up to play two games back-to-back,” Missy Gators coach Troy Stewart said. “We’re going to focus on the first one first, then the following morning work on what we’ve got to do for the next one, and then the following morning work on the third one.”

Stewart added that the three-game run will be difficult for his team because he likes to play an up-tempo style. With the first two games counting in the Division 4-5A standings, he doesn’t want to go away from what is working for the Missy Gators (9-7).

He did, however, give his players the day off on Monday to provide some extra rest. The snowstorm that canceled classes on Tuesday also wiped out practice and gave them another day off.

“It’s extremely hard for my girls, simply because our style of play is to run. It’s hard to get your legs up for that every night. Every other night, you can do it, but not every night,” Stewart said. “I cannot change the way we approach the game because it’s the way we play now. I haven’t shown them three or four different sets or ways to play. That’s how we play. It may hurt us in the score, but that’s how we’re going to play.”

Similarly, Carter said he had no plans to slow the pace or substitute more often on Thursday and Friday to keep his players’ legs fresh for Saturday. Senior guard Ke’Darrion Parson said he and his teammates won’t check the throttle, either.

“We just play the game as it goes,” Parson said. “We’re not going to worry about the three games back-to-back. We’re just going to play hard each day.”

The hardest part, Carter said, will be planning and preparation. While the girls’ team was off, the Gators played an extra game Monday against Mendenhall in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Basketball Classic in Jackson. By the end of Saturday they will have played five games in seven days, and with the snow day mixed in there will only be one practice in that span.

“It’s very difficult, because you can’t prepare,” Carter said. “The weather is supposed to be bad (Tuesday) and if we can’t go to school we can’t go to practice.”

In addition to the VHS games, the Red Carpet Basketball Classic will feature girls-boys doubleheaders between Brookhaven Academy and Porter’s Chapel Academy, and Starkville and Warren Central.

The daylong hoops extravaganza begins at 10 a.m. with the Brookhaven-PCA girls game. The final game, Starkville vs. Warren Central boys, starts at 5:30 p.m.