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Missy Gators repeat as Region 4-5A champs

JACKSON — When they lost four starters from a team that reached the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals, there was plenty of concern about whether the Vicksburg Missy Gators could be as good this year as they were last year.

As it turns out, they weren’t as good. They’re better.

Layla Carter led three players in double figures with 16 points, and the Missy Gators completed a dominant run through Region 4-5A by beating Provine 64-41 on Friday in the league’s tournament championship game.

Vicksburg (16-5) won all seven of its region games this season by double figures, and only one was closer than 19 points. It went 21 years without a region title, and now has won two in a row.

The Missy Gators earned a first-round bye in the Class 5A state tournament, and will host either Grenada or Neshoba Central in the second round on Feb. 19.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m happy for the ladies. With all the adversity we’ve seen this year with losing people, graduating people, COVID, things of that nature, I’m just so glad we could persevere and make it through. I’m extremely proud of the ladies,” Vicksburg coach Troy Stewart said.

The Missy Gators received a bye into the Region 4-5A championship game when first-round opponent Ridgeland bowed out because of COVID-19 issues. The rust accumulated from having a week off showed early, when they only led Provine 7-5 at the end of the first quarter.

“We just weren’t making shots. I think it lasted throughout the night. We missed a whole bunch of shots we normally make,” Stewart said. “I may attribute that to their defense, too, because Provine did two or three different things to us that were different. They threw a couple of curveballs at us. It just makes us better to be prepared for those types of situations.”

Eight minutes, though, was about all it took to shake most of the rust off.

The Missy Gators scored on six consecutive possessions early in the second quarter to begin pulling away. They led 26-13 at halftime, pushed the lead to 20 midway through the third quarter, and were never seriously threatened after that sluggish opening period.

“We have been using a certain defense the first two games we played them. I didn’t want to use it tonight simply because I thought they were prepared for it, but I put it back in in the third quarter and it paid dividends,” Stewart said.

Eight players scored for the Missy Gators. Joining Carter in double figures were Kalia Bland with 13 and Janiah Caples with 10.

Myeisha Scott led Provine with 13 points, and Chasity Woodard scored 10. Provine will host Center Hill in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Monday, weather permitting.

Vicksburg, meanwhile, will get a couple extra days to rest and relax before facing the Grenada-Neshoba Central winner. Stewart said the winter storm forecast to hit Mississippi early next week will hinder preparation a bit, but not having to worry about playing a first-round game outweighed those concerns.

“It may hinder us, the coaches, from going out to do a scouting job, but other than that it’s a great feeling,” he said. “We’ll have an opportunity to go see who we’re going to play, watch them in person rather than on film, and give us a couple of extra days to get prepared and for my girls to get healthy.”

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 sports reporters in the paper's 137-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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