Okolona Chieftains impressive on road

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

VARDAMAN – While he says his team is not yet in tournament mode, Bobby Ford’s Okolona Chieftains put on an impressive showing at a division opponent’s home gym.
Despite one of the state’s best shooters, David “D.J” Gardner, being held to just seven points, the Chieftains (14-6, 3-0 Division 4-1A) defeated Vardaman (4-12, 0-3) with relative ease, 77-43, on Tuesday night.
“We’re not in tournament mode yet – not to me,” Ford said. “The big thing is when we get David’s foot checked. That’s going to be big.
“I’m hoping for good news on that. He’s been hurting right across the top of his foot. We had it X-rayed, but the X-rays didn’t show anything.”
Gardner, who will get a second look at his foot today, did his fair share of distributing the ball and setting up teammates for easy baskets despite the injury that prevents him from going inside on a regular basis and going full speed.
As a result, the Chieftains closed out the first half on a 17-4 run to break open a relatively tight game and allow for the starters to sit out the fourth quarter.
Victor Cunningham and Lamarcus Thomas picked up the scoring slack through the first two quarters, combining for 19 of Okolona’s 42 first-half points. Cunningham finished with a game-high 16, while Thomas ended up with 13.
Dilian Blanchard and Jordan Ivy each had six points in the opening half, while Gardner tallied just five.
“Gardner is going to get his no matter what. He’s such an excellent athlete,” said Rams coach Billy Dill. “And he didn’t have to (lead in scoring) tonight.
“He had a lot of help around him, and that’s what hurt us. We talked about before the game: Don’t let the other guys beat us. And out of that little box-and-one we ran, they shot really well.”
To make matters worse, the Rams were outscored 22-3 in the third quarter by a team that could make a run at the state tournament come February. Chris Armstrong, Vardaman’s leading scorer on the night with 13 points, sunk just one free throw in the period, while Dewayne Armstrong scored the Rams’ lone field goal.
“The way they go to the boards, as hard as they go to the boards – and we didn’t play very well at all on the boards – but as hard as they go to the boards and when you got an athlete like Gardner, you always have a chance,” Dill said. “Honestly, that might be one of the better teams that I have seen in the North half.”
- (G) Okolona 62, Vardaman 42: Quinndella Ford wasn’t the only one scoring for the Chieftains (7-11, 2-1 Division 1-4A) on Tuesday night.
She scored a game-high 26, but she was also joined by teammates Lameisha Gunn (11 points) and Victoria Cunningham (10).
Niesha Willis led the Rams (4-14, 0-3) with 17 and J’ebony Eacholes added 12.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@journalinc.com