WC vs. Starkville games in Red Carpet Classic pair some of state’s best

Published 8:05 am Friday, January 19, 2018

By Cody Thomason
The Vicksburg Post

It seems like the city shuts down when snow and ice cover the streets, with the Vicksburg Warren School District closing for the past three days, but for Warren Central’s basketball teams it meant a lot more than a few days of snowball fights and trying to stay warm inside.

Saturday, in the Red Carpet Basketball Classic, the Vikings and Lady Vikes will face their biggest tests of the season against Starkville. They’ll come in cold, having not practiced for the past four days, although they will play Friday night at home against Jim Hill.

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“It’s going to be tough because you want to gameplan,” Warren Central boys coach Bruce Robinson said of the missed practices. “I’ve seen film on them, my assistants have watched film, but we actually have to take that film and translate it to what we’re going to do on the court. It’s going to be important that we can get some time in and get ready for them.”

For the boys, this game offers a unique chance to prove themselves as legitimate contenders. The Vikings are 14-3 and have won 13 of their last 14 games to become one of the top teams in Class 6A.

Starkville (9-3) has won six in a row and is ranked No. 3 in Class 6A by MaxPreps.com. Warren Central is ranked fifth.

“Starkville will be maybe the biggest challenge that we’ve had thus far this year,” Robinson said. “At this point here in late January, we’re trying to figure out where we are in terms of 6A competition, Starkville is going to be a good test.”

The teams played early last season in Starkville, and the Yellowjackets came away with a 60-47 victory. Robinson said Starkville looked well-coached and seasoned already this year.

“They’re perennial state contenders, just about year after year after coach (Greg) Carter got there,” Robinson said. “They shoot the ball well, they defend well, they’re fairly disciplined in what they do, and they play a pretty tough schedule.”

Warren Central will need to be locked in defensively to get the victory on Saturday.

“We’re going to have to match their intensity on the outside, and I think we’re going to have to defend the 3-point line,” Robinson said. “They rely so much on that 3-pointer for their success, and that’s what I’ve seen on film and what other coaches have told me about them. I think if we can get a good solid shootaround or a walkthrough on them, we’ll be all right. Not being able to practice, not being able to play on Tuesday and still having to prepare for such a tough opponent, it’s going to be tough, but they’re probably going through the same thing also.”

The Warren Central boys and girls teams both played in Starkville last season and came up short, so this game provides an interesting rematch. It might also serve as a preview of things to come.

“It is one way to prove ourselves,” Robinson said. “It’s a playoff type game, because we very well could meet them again in an elimination game leading up to the Coliseum. It’s something that we need.”

Warren Central’s girls’ coach, Jackie Martin-Glass, also saw an opportunity to be better prepared for a potential playoff matchup, especially since they were meeting Starkville later in the season than last time.

The last meeting between the teams was in November 2016 in Starkville. Starkville won 53-27, just one of its victories in a 31-game winning streak that ended with a Class 6A championship game loss to Murrah.

Starkville has a 96-10 record over the past 3 ½ seasons and has reached at least the Class 6A semifinals each time. The Yellowjackets are 14-1 this season and ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by MaxPreps.com. Warren Central (15-4) is ranked No. 3 and has won five of its last six games since a two-game losing skid in mid-December.

“Usually our teams get that chemistry together and they gel around the second part of the season, so it gives us a better opportunity to look at them and see what they have,” Glass said. “So if we end up playing them again down the road, we’ll have an opportunity to go in prepared for it.”

The Lady Vikes are keying in on slowing down the Yellowjackets’ explosive backcourt. Jalisa Outlaw and Tabreea Gandy are averaging 14.7 and 13.7 points per game, respectively. Jariyah Covington is just behind at 9.6 points per game.

“They have three guards that can be deadly and they can beat you themselves,” Martin-Glass said. “The biggest thing is watching out for their guard play.”

Starkville’s defense will also be difficult to gameplan for, and offer a unique challenge. Martin-Glass said the Yellowjackets use a man-to-man defense that is different than what most opponents have used against the Lady Vikes. The lack of practice time won’t help in preparing for it, either.

“That really doesn’t help that we don’t get a chance to practice, you lose your endurance,” Martin-Glass said. “We do have a game scheduled for Friday that gives us a chance to actually play a game before we take on Starkville.”

Saturday, at Warren Central
Admission: $8; ticket good for all games
1 p.m. – Forest Hill vs. Vicksburg
4 p.m. – Starkville vs. Warren Central
2:30 p.m. – Port Gibson vs. Vicksburg
5:30 p.m. – Starkville vs. Warren Central