Vicksburg boys will face Callaway for Division 4-5A crown
Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The Vicksburg Gators will get a chance to win the Division 4-5A championship, in a season where that once looked like a remote possibility. They’re already looking ahead, however, to the other rewards gained from defeating Ridgeland 67-55 in the first round of the division tournament on Tuesday night.
The win clinched a berth for the Gators in the Class 5A state tournament that begins next week. They’ll earn a first-round bye if they can beat Callaway in the division tournament championship game on Friday night, or play a home game in the first round if they lose.
If Vicksburg has to play in the first round, it would host the third-place teams from North Mississippi’s Division 1-5A.
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Vicksburg won for the seventh time in nine games, after losing nine of 10 before that.
The Gators are in the division tournament championship game for the second straight year, but haven’t won a division title since 2013.
“We would love to win district, especially against a great team like Callaway, but man we are playing at home on Monday that’s the most important thing,” Vicksburg coach Kelvin Carter said. “I just didn’t want to travel. I think our chances are a little better playing at home.”
Callaway (21-5) is a perennial power in Class 5A, and a perennial nemesis for Vicksburg (12-15). The Gators have not beaten the Chargers since 2009, and have only won three of their 21 meetings since 2005. Callaway beat Vicksburg 82-58 and 74-52 in their two regular-season meetings this year, but Carter was optimistic about round three. His team only trailed by nine points at halftime the last time they faced Callaway.
“I really feel good about our chances,” Carter said. “We’re going to take these next two days and we’re going to get prepared for it.”
Ridgeland (17-9) will play Germantown (3-21) in the consolation game Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at VHS. The winner there will also clinch a spot in the state tournament.
Vicksburg used a red hot start to propel itself to its second win over Ridgeland in three meetings on Tuesday. The Gators knocked down five 3-pointers in the first quarter, including two from Cameron Butler and a buzzer beater by Darius Johnson, to storm out to a 24-9 lead.
The Titans fought back and made it a close game, with Darius Kent scoring all of his team-leading 15 points in the second half.
The Titans scoring run didn’t catch the Gators off guard, as Carter warned his team this could happen. Vicksburg has lost a few close games this year, but the team showed resiliency down the stretch.
“It was about time we made it through,” Carter said.
Ridgeland had managed to cut the deficit to just four with under four minutes left in the game, but Johnson put the team on his back and secured the Gators’ victory at the line, notching 10 of his game high 23 points on free throws late in the game.
Johnson’s clutch free throw shooting did not come as a surprise to Carter.
“He is a very good free throw shooter, he’s a guy that relishes the moment like this,” Carter said. He wants that opportunity, he puts a lot of pressure on himself when I tell him to relax and let the game come to him, and tonight, he was our guy.”
DIVISION 4-5A TOURNAMENT
At Vicksburg High
Thursday – Consolation round
6 p.m. – Callaway vs. Germantown (girls)
7:30 p.m. – Ridgeland vs. Germantown (boys)
Friday – Championship games
6 p.m. – Vicksburg vs. Ridgeland (girls)
7:30 p.m. – Vicksburg vs. Callaway (boys)