Vikings, Lady Vikes enjoy a fresh start in region tournaments

Published 5:32 pm Monday, February 10, 2020

When the Warren Central Vikings reached their holiday break, they were five games over .500 and looking like a team capable of making a deep playoff run.

Since they, they’ve only won twice in 10 games. Even so, all things considered, it could be a lot worse.

Warren Central’s two wins in 2020 were both against Region 4-6A opponents, including a 57-54 come-from-behind victory in Friday’s regular-season finale against Madison Central. That earned it the No. 3 seed in the boys’ region tournament, what coach Bruce Robinson considers a favorable first-round matchup with Murrah, and a fresh start as the postseason begins this week.

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“Next week is a different beast. Records are out the window,” Robinson said. “Everybody’s been preparing. Our district is so close and even, we’re just going to go and try to win a district tournament or at least get in the championship again. If we can do that, that’s three out of four years and that’s something to hang your hat on no matter what your season record and how dismal it was.”

Warren Central (12-13) will play No. 2 seed Murrah (15-10) in the first round Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Murrah is hosting the Region 4-6A tournament, but Robinson said homecourt advantage might not be worth as much in this particular matchup.

Warren Central is 4-2 against Murrah over the last three seasons, and they split two regular-season meetings this season.

“We beat them once. We’ve played good and been successful in JPS gyms. We’re familiar with them,” Robinson said. “We played them three times last year and we weren’t even in the district with them. We know them. With that being said, they know us also. That makes it a favorable matchup.”

Clinton and Madison Central played in the other Region 4-6A boys’ semifinal late Monday night. The semifinal winners play in the championship game Friday at 8:30 p.m., while the losers play in the consolation game at 5:30.

The top three teams from each region advance to the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs, so the consolation game also serves as a state playoff elimination game. Robinson said that, besides the obvious reward of a championship opportunity, winning in the first round takes a lot of pressure off by ensuring a state playoff berth.

Warren Central has reached the Class 6A tournament each of the past three seasons.

“It relaxes you when you can get that first win in the district. When you can relax and exhale, I think you can prepare a little bit better for the championship game,” Robinson said. “It’s special playing in the championship game. It’s real nice just to get in the championship, and then that puts you in a home game the next week. That’s what we’ve been fighting for.”

In the Region 4-6A girls’ tournament, Warren Central (8-13) wound up as the No. 4 seed and faced top-seeded Clinton (20-4) on Monday. Murrah and Madison Central play in the other semifinal Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Warren Central has lost 10 games in a row — its last victory was on Dec. 13 against Lanier — and needs to win one of two games in the region tournament to extend its season. Coach Darein Hilliard bristled a bit when asked if splitting and surviving was the plan, though.

“We want to win both of them,” Hilliard said.

Like the boys’ team, the Lady Vikes are mostly treating the region tournament as a fresh start. They’ve been competitive in a couple of recent games — they only trailed Vicksburg by three points heading into the fourth quarter, and led Madison Central at halftime on Friday before eventually losing 48-34 — and are hoping to put it all together at least once this week.

“You can go out there and anything can happen. We’re just going to go out there and be prepared. People saw that we were prepared (Friday),” Hilliard said. “The issue is, you have to prepare every day. You have to coach every play when you have a team as young as this. They’re going to have breakdowns, and you have to find a way to fight through it. We’re just hoping we can get that one game that gets us in, whether it’s Monday or it’s Friday.”

REGION 4-6A TOURNAMENT
At Murrah High School
Monday

Warren Central vs. Clinton (Girls)
Madison Central vs. Clinton (Boys)
Tuesday
6 p.m. – Murrah vs. Madison Central (Girls)
7:30 p.m. – Warren Central vs. Murrah (Boys)
Friday
4 p.m. – Girls consolation game
5:30 p.m. – Boys consolation game
7 p.m. – Girls championship game
8:30 p.m. – Boys championship game
Note: The top three teams advance to the MHSAA Class 6A state tournament

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 139-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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