Vikings try to go from good to great vs. Hernando

Published 7:58 am Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Warren Central’s boys basketball coach Bruce Robinson, eventually, broke down and said this has been a “very good” season for his program.

It was a tough admission for him, because he’s not quite satisfied with that.

The Vikings (21-6) will host Hernando (8-17) in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A state tournament Tuesday at 7 p.m. It’s their second consecutive appearance in the state tournament and the first time they’ve won at least 20 games in a season in at least a couple of decades.

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Robinson, however, would like to see the team take the next step to cap what has already been a breakthrough season.

“Getting to this second round is going to be huge,” Robinson said. “We say we’re going from average to good to great. This season is not over. Not by a longshot. We’re good. We’re trying to see if we can be great. Being great is getting there and winning a gold ball. In getting there, there is a certain mindset that we have to deal with.”

The mindset, Robinson added, is to expect and strive for more than just getting to the state tournament. Warren Central’s win over Hernando in last year’s first round was its first since 1974, and a generation of mediocrity made simply escaping the division tournament the baseline.

Last year’s state tournament win, and another this year, would keep moving the bar and the expectations a little higher.

“We’re not going to lose more than seven ballgames this year, and we’re above 20 (wins). That’s good. From where we came, some people might say that’s great. But that’s not enough to be 21-7 this year. Can you hang some 21-7s the next three, four five years?” Robinson said.

With six losses on their balance sheet already, the Vikings will have a hard road to avoid getting No. 7 before it’s all said and done. If they win Tuesday, they’ll go on the road to play Starkville (21-3) on Saturday and there’s three more difficult games after that before they’d get to hoist a state championship trophy in Jackson.

So, for the moment, the goal is simply to avoid loss No. 7 and earn win No. 22 against what appears to be a vulnerable Hernando team. The Tigers have lost four of their last five games, with the only win coming over Lewisburg in the consolation game of the Division 1-6A tournament.

Hernando only has three seniors on its roster.

“I think they’re still fairly young. They’re not going to overwhelm us with their size. This is one game where we’ll probably have a size advantage. They have one kid that’s about 6-3. They’ll push it up and down, so we have to be aware of that and guard that 3-point line,” Robinson said.

Perhaps more than reacting to anything Hernando does, Robinson said the key for the Vikings was to regroup and keep their head if it turns into a close game. Warren Central lost 66-64 to Greenville in the Division 4-6A tournament championship game last Friday. It was the first time this season that they’d lost a game decided by three points or less. They’d won the previous five, as well as another decided by four points.

It was also just their second true road loss this year. The other four had been on neutral courts or at home.

“We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to play with our heads and not our hearts,” Robinson said. “I think we got too emotional in Greenville when things did not go our way. You’ve still got to stay calm, because as bad as things were it was still a one-possession game. We usually win those games. I think we got too comfortable knowing we would win a one-possession game.”

6 p.m. – Lake Cormorant at VHS (Class 5A girls)
7 p.m. – Hernando at WC (Class 6A boys)
6 p.m. – Lake Cormorant at VHS (Class 5A boys)

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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