Lineup shift propels VHS to a victory

Published 8:10 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Vicksburg Missy Gators coach Troy Stewart needed to do something to light a spark for his team.

He needed something to change up their mindset, and when his starting five took the court Tuesday for its Class 5A girls basketball state tournament game against Lake Cormorant there were four freshmen out there.

The experiment worked.

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Vicksburg scored the first 12 points of the game and led by 15 at the end of the first quarter. It went on to an easy 78-43 rout of Lake Cormorant to advance to the second round.

The Missy Gators (15-13) ensured they’ll finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2009-10 season. They’ll travel to play Neshoba Central in the next round, Friday at 7 p.m.

“We got off to a fast start, and think that’s the deciding factor on whether we play well and do well. The times we start slow, we struggle,” Stewart said. “I caught myself shaking it up simply because we’ve been getting off to those slow starts with my regular starters, so shift the process. I explained to my regular starters what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to inject some energy into the game. I think they did a good job.”

There was definitely a boost on the defensive side in the first quarter, as the Missy Gators had seven steals.

“They showed a lot of energy, we pressed and got the presses off,” Stewart said. “We got a couple of traps in, everything looked better, got a couple of steals, and once they started feeling good about themselves we actually started playing better.”

The steals were just the tip of the iceberg, as the Missy Gators hounded Lake Cormorant’s ball handlers all night and plucked passes out of the air at every opportunity. Vicksburg finished with 22 steals, with Yakia Burns leading the team with eight.

“The pressure helped us tonight,” Stewart said. “And instead of us turning it over, it was them. I’m proud of the fact that we created more turnovers than we made.”

The Missy Gators feasted on the transition opportunities set up by Lake Cormorant’s turnovers.

Pleasure King had a game-high 18 points, while Ke’Mari Smith added 10 and Burns added nine. Brandi Dillon added four points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Asia Blackshear led Lake Cormorant with 16 points.

“We didn’t even get to run any real sets, all of our offense came from our defense,” Stewart said. “If we can keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape for the rest of the playoffs. That sparks our offense.”