Missy Gators rally to remain unbeaten

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2018

FLOWOOD — The longer their winning streak lasts, the more internal and external pressure mounts on the Vicksburg Missy Gators to keep it going. It’s a vicious, if welcome, cycle of success.

And it’s still going.

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The Missy Gators used a big third-quarter run to wipe out a seven-point deficit and a sluggish first half, and then sidestepped some sloppiness down the stretch to beat Northwest Rankin 56-50 on Tuesday night.

Vicksburg improved to 8-0, its best start in more than 20 years, heading into a crosstown showdown with Warren Central at home on Saturday afternoon. VHS coach Troy Stewart said the winning streak has reached the point where it’s getting noticed in ways both good and bad.

“I don’t know if it’s momentum that it’s building. I know it’s building pressure on the girls, because we’ve played a little better than we showed tonight. So I think the pressure is getting to them. I’m trying to alleviate that by letting them know all we have to do is go out and play every night,” Stewart said. “I’m trying to stay humble and make sure they stay humble. We are playing good teams and doing well, but on any given night one of those shots may not fall that you need to. We’ve got to try to keep that in mind all the time.”

For a time Tuesday, the shots were not falling. Northwest Rankin (0-9) went on a 10-3 run late in the second quarter to take a 31-24 lead into halftime and maintained that margin through the early part of the third quarter.

Then Vicksburg finally got rolling.

Karmen Davenport and Gada Clay hit 3-pointers to bookend a 16-4 run. Yakia Burns’ jumper tied the game at 37, and Kemari Smith’s fast break layup off a steal on the ensuing possession gave the Missy Gators the lead for good with 2:10 left in the third quarter. They led 42-37 at the end of the period.

Smith finished with a game-high 17, and Clay had 10. Sha’Kora Knight scored 12.

“We switched our press back and forth between two different ones and they never could get settled,” Stewart said.

Vicksburg’s lead swelled to as many as 10 points with a minute left in the game, but it wasn’t quite able to cruise home. Several turnovers in the final minute allowed Northwest Rankin an opportunity to make things interesting, but it wasn’t able to take advantage. The Lady Cougars missed three free throws and a 3-pointer in the last 20 seconds.

“I think my girls took them for granted,” Stewart said. “I explained to them that (Northwest Rankin) was a good team. If you look at their scores, they’ve been losing by small margins to good teams. I knew they could play and I was trying to get the girls to understand that. I guess at halftime it triggered and we came out and played real well.”

(B) Northwest Rankin 68,

Vicksburg 62

For a brief moment Tuesday, the Vicksburg Gators were riding high after completing an impressive comeback on a night that obviously was not their best.

The good times lasted all of 13 seconds.

LeDarrien Perkins converted a three-point play with 1:34 remaining to put Northwest Rankin back in front after Vicksburg had taken its first lead of the game, and the Cougars held the Gators to one basket the rest of the way to escape with a six-point victory.

Perkins finished with 13 points for Northwest Rankin (6-5). Matthew Mackey scored 15, including four key free throws in the final minute, and Jamari Jones added 12.

Keshawn Brown and Devan Kiner led Vicksburg (5-3) with 17 points apiece. Darius Johnson scored 14. The Gators will head into Saturday’s matchup with archrival Warren Central on a two-game losing streak, after they started the season by winning five of their first six.

“It’s not a good one to shake it off with,” Vicksburg coach Kelvin Carter said. “We’ve got to go back to practice tomorrow, go to work, and get ready for WC.”

The Gators trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and never could get over the hump in the second half. They closed within a single point twice, only to watch Northwest Rankin pull away again.

Finally, Kiner converted a three-point play with 1:47 left to put the Gators in front 60-59. The lead lasted 13 seconds.

Perkins’ three-point play put Northwest Rankin ahead again, and two free throws by Mackey made it 64-60 with 1:02 to go. Johnson scored to pull the Gators within a basket again, but Michael Forbes cleaned up his own offensive rebound with 33.2 seconds to go and Mackey hit two more free throws to close it out.

The Gators missed two free throws and a pair of 3-pointers in the last 30 seconds.

“We got stuck in the middle for a while. We never could quite get out of that mud,” Carter said. “It looked like it was more effort. (Northwest) wanted it a little bit more and they played a little bit harder. Our guys just didn’t make the plays they needed to make down the stretch.”

(B) WC 53, Wingfield 52

P.J. Mims hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining to give Warren Central (4-4) the lead, and it hung on to beat Wingfield and snap a two-game losing streak.

Mims hit three 3-pointers in the game and finished with nine points. Jabari Bowman led the Vikings with 16 points — nine of them in the fourth quarter — and Jalen Glass scored 12.

Damarion Arrington led Wingfield (4-5) with a game-high 20 points, while Deonte Griffin and Stephon Thomas scored 14 apiece.

(G) PCA 60,

Franklin Academy 42

Brittnee Martin went 3-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 23 points to lead Porter’s Chapel Academy (4-6) to an easy win over Franklin Academy.

Fayth McDaniel added nine points and four steals for the Lady Eagles, while Anna Grace White scored seven points.

Hope Lord led Franklin with 12 points.

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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