Missy Gators are county’s last team in state tournament after beating Canton

Published 5:30 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Vicksburg Missy Gators’ season has been one of runs. They started with eight straight wins and then went into a slump. They ripped off six more wins, and then lost five in a row.

Fortunately, when it really matters, they appear to be heating up again.

The Missy Gators used a couple of runs and clutch baskets as a springboard to success Tuesday night, as they pulled away in the second half to beat Canton 58-45 in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A girls state basketball tournament.

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Vicksburg (18-12) won for the second time in three games and advanced to face Lafayette (26-3) in the second round. That game is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Lafayette.

The Missy Gators also advanced to the second round of the state tournament for the second year in a row.

“We as a staff, we’re looking for consistency. The girls are looking to build a program for us, for Vicksburg High School,” Vicksburg coach Troy Stewart said. “Those girls have bought in. No matter what anybody says, what adversity we’ve gone through, those girls in the locker room are believing in each other and they’re playing well right now. I’m thinking the slump that we had prior to this has lifted us toward this. We’re playing our best basketball right now. I just hope we keep going.”

When the Missy Gators have played well this season they’ve been tough to beat. Tuesday’s victory was their 15th by double digits. They outscored Canton 36-20 in the second half.

The Missy Gators closed the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt to finally gain some separation, and a 3-pointer by Dajia Reed put them ahead 42-31 with 6:47 left in the fourth quarter.

“That was big. It hyped us up to continue to play hard,” said Reed, who scored all seven of her points in the fourth quarter.

Canton trimmed the margin back to seven before another quick burst put the game away for Vicksburg. Karmen Davenport converted a three-point play to key a 7-0 run that made it 51-37 with 3:51 remaining. Canton (21-9) never got back within single digits.

“That settled my girls in,” Stewart said of the run. “That run gave us a little cushion so we weren’t as frustrated, so when you make a turnover or mistake somewhere it wouldn’t eat at you the same way as if it was close.

Davenport led Vicksburg with 13 points. Burns scored 10 and Destini Sims had nine. Davenport scored her points off the bench and gave the Missy Gators a needed spark, Stewart said.

“That’s been Karmen all year. Karmen is a true spark plug,” Stewart said. “I’d like to start her more, but she’s better for us being that spark plug. She’s got extremely quick hands and a quick first step, so she does well for us because nobody’s expecting it when they’re tired.

Two layups in the final minute, one by Davenport off a steal and the other by Burns on a long outlet pass against the press, put an exclamation point on the victory.

“Canton’s got a good team. They’ve got the pieces that really match us well. So doing the things we wanted to do, spread them out and drive, hurt us because they’ve got those bigs inside,” Stewart said. “What helped us was we were able to pull the bigs out of the paint and do a few things. And a couple steals here, a couple of steals there make a big difference.”

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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