Missy Gators grind out a win over Jim Hill on senior night

Published 10:27 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Vicksburg Missy Gators’ first postseason appetizer was a meat and potatoes kind of win.

The Missy Gators cleared the bench, gave their seniors a moment, and grinded out a 68-55 victory over Jim Hill Friday on senior night in The Swamp.

JaNa Colenburg and Layla Carter — two of the team’s eight seniors — combined for 35 points and nine steals in the win. Colenburg made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, while Carter scored 16. Carter also had six assists and five steals.

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“A grind it out type of win,” Vicksburg coach Troy Stewart said. “Senior night is a big night for those ladies, and as to be expected they were a little anxious to get started and it didn’t quite go the way we expected. They did a good job of fighting through it, taking a lead and holding on.”

Vicksburg (22-5, 7-1 MHSAA Region 4-5A) won its third consecutive game, and 11th in 12 outings, although it didn’t earn many style points in doing it. It only led by four points at halftime against a team it beat by 22 on the road two weeks ago, and didn’t fully pull away until early in the fourth quarter.

Two quick baskets in the closing moments of the third quarter, including a buzzer-beating putback by Kierra James, put the Missy Gators ahead 45-35. They continued the run in the fourth quarter, eventually opening a 53-37 lead with five minutes to go, and kept it in double digits from there.

James finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Another senior, Janiah Caples, had nine points.

Jameria Cavett led Jim Hill (6-17, 3-4) with 16 points and Alicia Tolliver scored 15.

“It’s a big momentum shift if you do that at the end of a quarter. It’s debilitating to the other team,” Stewart said of the decisive 12-2 run.

The win sent Vicksburg into its postseason preparations on a good note. It has one more regular-season game left, Feb. 3 at Clinton, and then will host the Region 4-5A tournament beginning Feb. 6.

The Missy Gators are the No. 2 seed in the girls’ tournament and will play No. 3 seed Jim Hill again in the semifinals on Feb. 7. Callaway is the No. 1 seed, and will face the winner of the 4 vs. 5 game between Forest Hill and Provine on Feb. 8.

Stewart said he’s pleased with the season so far, but still sees plenty of room for improvement over the next 10 days.

“The level of basketball we’re playing now is somewhere around 90, 92 percent of where I want to be,” Stewart said. “I still think we can improve our defense tremendously. We’re going into the district tournament ranked second rather than first. I’m not happy about that. Other than that, we’re in a good place.”

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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