Missy Gators top WC for odd victory

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday’s girls basketball game between Vicksburg High and Warren Central started with a clothesline and an ejection. It ended with a long string of fouls that left Warren Central with four players on the floor and devolved the action into a free throw shooting slog.

In between, the contest went from a close game to a blowout and back again. It went in the books as a 73-65 victory for Vicksburg that, a few years from now, won’t look nearly as strange as the journey to get there.

“It was kind of weird,” said Vicksburg senior guard Jayla Sims, who scored seven points.

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Tiarra Jones led the Missy Gators (13-6) with 14 points. Dajia Reed added 11, while Destini Sims, Yakia Burns and Sha’Kora Knight scored 10 apiece. The Missy Gators won their third straight game, a streak that has allowed them to put in the rearview a stretch in which they lost six of eight. They also snapped a six-game losing streak against Warren Central (5-10).

“It feels good. We hadn’t beaten Warren Central in a few years so it feels good to finally do it,” Jones said. “We just won our two district games, so from here on out we plan to just keep winning. Keep sending dubs.”

Vicksburg took control of the game in the second quarter with a 16-1 run. Warren Central didn’t make a field goal until Aniya Sanders converted a steal and layup with 1:27 remaining.

That capped an odd first half that included WC’s Tamiya Dunn taking a hard fall after being clotheslined while jumping for a pass along the perimeter, and Vicksburg coach Troy Stewart getting ejected late in the first quarter.

Despite not raising his voice or appearing animated in any way, Stewart was hit with two quick technical fouls for disputing a foul call with 2:48 left in the first quarter. After the second technical he immediately turned, walked past the bench and watched the rest of the game from an open doorway at the end of the gym.

When the dust settled, Vicksburg held a 38-19 lead that seemed safe as it swelled to as many as 24 points midway through the third quarter. In this odd game, however, nothing was safe.

Warren Central went on a 16-2 run, trimming the deficit to 50-40 on a basket by Zykerri Segrest just before the third quarter ended. Segrest scored 12 of her 20 points in the third quarter.

“Every time we were in transition from offense to defense they were coming back faster than we were on defense. We were slow on defense, and that’s what messed us up. That’s when (Aniya Sanders) came in and got a bunch of buckets,” Jones said.

The fourth quarter didn’t bring the conclusion of a miraculous comeback — the Lady Vikes never got closer than six points — but did include more weirdness.

With his team still in shouting distance, WC coach Darein Hilliard tried to extend the game by fouling to stop the clock. On the other end, Sanders took over on offense by driving into the lane and regularly drawing fouls.

The two strategies led to the teams combining to shoot an astonishing and agonizing 46 free throws in the fourth quarter. Vicksburg went just 15-for-32, while Warren Central was 11-of-14 to help close the gap. Sanders converted several three-point plays as she scored 18 of her game-high 29 points in the final period.

In the game, the Missy Gators shot 51 free throws and the Lady Vikes 43.

Hilliard’s tactics got Warren Central back in the game. It closed the gap to 71-65 in the final 30 seconds before finally falling apart with a pair of missed shots and a thinning bench.

Warren Central only had eight players dressed for the game. Three of them fouled out and Dunn, who had been in and out of the game since her early fall, was not available at the end. So, for the final 10.5 seconds, the Lady Vikes were forced to take their final shot with only four players on the floor.

All eight Warren Central players finished the game with at least three fouls.

“Somebody in the crowd said, ‘Coach, it’s over,’ with about two minutes to go. I said it ain’t over until the clock says it’s over. I’ve been in games like that before and I’ve seen it happen. We’ve got nothing to lose,” Hilliard said. “We had to make it a free throw game and I had to lengthen the game. At the beginning I wanted to shorten it. We need to play a 50-point game. Since we ended up with the points being higher I tried to lengthen it. I knew we could get back in it if they missed a free throw here or there.”

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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