STARKVILLE RUNS END GOLDEN WAVE’S BID
By D.E. Wheeler
VICKSBURG – An old foe that denied the Tupelo Golden Wave a state title 16 years ago rose up denied them their first chance at a trip to Jackson next week.
Now the Wave must face a familiar old foe to earn a berth in the Class 5A State Tournament.
In semifinal action in the North Mississippi 5A Tournament Friday at Warren Central High School, the Wave could not handle the inside and outside game of Vicksburg Gators. A 9-1 run at the end of the third quarter gave the Wave too much of margin to overcome as the Gators won 62-51.
The other semifinal game saw the Starkville Yellow Jackets blow a halftime lead as the Clinton Arrows won 70-59.
Tupelo and Starkville meet in the 7 p.m. game today with the winner advancing to the state tournament. Clinton and Vicksburg play in the tournament finals at 8:30, already having earned at spot in the State Tournament.
“Anytime we score 60 points or less, Vicksburg has a chance to win,” said Gators head coach Dellie Robinson of the No. 3 ranked team in the state. “I thought Tupelo played outstanding, and I knew they would be tough to deal with.”
The Wave had a tough time dealing with 6-9 Mississippi State signee Quentin Smith, who blocked several first half Tupelo shots. Despite that, Tupelo was still in the game as Mel McElroy had a steal and basket to tie the score at 23-23 with 1:59 left in the half.
In the third quarter, a couple of Wille Poster baskets left seven points by John Bradley left Tupelo trailing 39-34 with 3:06 left in the period. But the Gators (28-4) went on a 9-1 run, highlighted by two Smith dunks.
“We knew they had a great outside game, and with Smith inside, it was going to be tough,” Tupelo coach Lee Stratton said. “We had several chances to make a run at them, but we missed too many shots that we’ll make tommorrow.”
Two more Bradley baskets and a layup by Richard Rainey pulled Tupelo within 52-45 with 5:46 left, but then the Wave did not score a field goal for the next five minutes.
Bradley was the only Wave in double figures with 16 points, while Robert Johnson led the Gators with 16. Three other players were in double figures for the Gators, including Smith’s 13 points.
“I wish we had gotten more points out of the rest of the guys,” Stratton said. “We knew Smith was going to intimidate us inside, but he didn’t hurt our 3-point shooting from were he was.”
Clinton 70, Starkville 59: A late third quarter run pulled Clinton to within 44-42 at the end of the period.
Clinton (20-8) then outscored Starkville 28-15 in the fourth quarter. Clinton led 17-11 after the first quarter and Starkville (20-11) led 32-25 at the half.
Starkville won both regualr season meetings against Tupelo while the Wave won the division tournament contest last week.