Gators start 2024 with another win over Callaway

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

When the Vicksburg Gators swept the season series from Callaway last season, it was a notable achievement. With a third consecutive victory added to the streak, it appears they’ve officially turned the tables on their longtime nemesis.

Davian Williams led four Gators in double figures with 18 points, and Vicksburg used a big run coming out of halftime to pull away from Callaway as it rolled to a 65-47 win Tuesday.

Vicksburg (14-3, 2-0 MHSAA Region 2-6A) has now won three in a row against the longtime Mississippi boys’ basketball powerhouse, after losing 20 of 21 meetings prior to that. All three of Vicksburg’s recent wins against Callaway (9-9, 0-2) have been by double digits.

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“We got abused by Callaway for so many years, it just feels good to beat them,” Vicksburg coach Kelvin Carter said with a laugh. “They’re not the Callaway of old, but they’re not a bad ballclub at all.”

The Gators led 30-26 at halftime, but quickly gained some needed separation at the start of the third quarter. Williams and Michael Johnson each hit a 3-pointer during a 14-2 run over the first 3 1/2 minutes of the period.

The surge pushed the Gators’ lead to 44-28, and Callaway never got back within single digits. Vicksburg outscored Callaway 21-11 in the third quarter.

“I tell them the importance of the first three minutes of each quarter. If we can punch first and they’re not punching, while they’re laying down we take it from a four-point lead to a 12-point lead like that,” Carter said.

Braxton Ward led Callaway with 18 points and Jaylen James had eight.

Kameryn Bailey and Jaylin Jackson finished with 12 points apiece for Vicksburg, and Tyler Henderson had 10. Johnson scored eight points.

Carter said his game MVP, however, was junior guard Mincer Minor. Minor did not score, but played lockdown defense and helped hold Callaway’s leading scorer Javarian Mallard to only six points.

“Mincer Minor got my game ball. It didn’t matter who he played, they didn’t score on him. Their best player has been averaging 21 and he had six points tonight,” Carter said.

Contributions like Minor’s led Carter to call Tuesday’s performance one of the team’s best of the season.

“This is our best game that we’ve played out of 17 games, collectively,” Carter said. “My reserves were diving on the floor for loose balls, giving us another possession. Those things right there are how we’re trying to get to this doggone Coliseum.”

As the Gators head into the meat of their Region 2-6A schedule — eight of their last nine games are within the league; a home date with Columbus is up next on Friday night — Carter likes where they’re sitting. Tuesday’s victory was the fourth in a row, and all three losses this season have been competitive ones against championship contenders Germantown, Yazoo City and Clinton.

With a full roster starting to gel and click, Carter said the wins and confidence are beginning to pile up.

“The record, really we’re 2-0. I always say those games before district are preseason games. Preseason is out of the way and this is where the rubber meets the road,” Carter said. “It’s encouraging, because we’ve played some good teams. That 14-3 gives us a lot of confidence that we can compete.”

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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