SWAC madness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

LORMAN &045; The balmy spring temperatures outside Wednesday afternoon did not buy a ticket inside the Davey L. Whitney Complex.

From the looks of a laid back, abbreviated Alcorn women’s practice Wednesday, one might have thought it was fall on the Reservation as LaTriska Jones and Zandra Hall practiced throwing the leather, orange roundball like a brown, leather oblong football.

It is easy to wonder with just two current players accustom to March Madness &045; guards Keairra Levy and Danielle Tipton &045; whether the fifth-seeded Lady Braves are approaching Friday’s noontime Southwestern Athletic Conference semifinal game with No. 1 seed Alabama State in Birmingham, Ala., a little too lightly.

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&uot;The big thing that we’re trying to show them is that you have to win together,&uot; said graduate assistant coach Cherea Wood, who herself was a part of back-to-back Alcorn NCAA Tournament teams in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. &uot;The only way to get to the top is with each other. That’s the way we won. We all had the same common goal.&uot;

The Lady Braves were on the same page Wednesday with a convincing 62-50 victory over Southern in Baton Rouge.

But while the Lady Jags were crowned last season’s regular season and tournament champs, Southern does not have anybody that compare to Alabama State’s 5-foot-11 forward Shameka Jackson.

The Lady Hornet senior dropped 34 points on Alcorn in Alabama State’s victory in Lorman at the end of February.

&uot;I put Jackson in the category of most superstars in that you can’t stop her, but only hope to contain her,&uot; assistant coach Perry Fletcher said. &uot;We’ll try to limit her touches and hopefully make her shoot jumps shots and turn the ball over.

Alcorn head coach Shirley Walker said the key to Wednesday’s win was defense.

The Lady Braves switched from a half-court press to ’10,’ or commonly known as man-to-man, to a matchup zone.

The constant switching threw Southern off and Fletcher said with Jackson and 6-5 Crystal Kitt down low, the Lady Hornets should expect more of the same.

&uot;When you play teams like Alabama State, who have good posts and guards that can make good decisions, you have to keep them out of their game,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’ll press to take them away from what they’re comfortable doing. Plus, it keeps our kids fresh. We’ve got a nice nucleus and it’s important for us to keep them on the court.&uot;

Fletcher, too, brings Tournament experience to the sideline after leading Jackson State to the SWAC Tournament title in 2000 and the automatic NCAA berth.

He said when coaching players who have only seen the tournament through the screen of a 19-inch, it is important for him to impart the topsy-turvy ride of the postseason.

&uot;Alcorn has a championship tradition and they are right now a part of that,&uot; Fletcher said. &uot;When they understand that they are supposed to be here, you’ve done your job as a coach.&uot;

One more time around?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. &045; Alcorn head coach Davey Whitney said the only time he things of his impending retirement is when reporters bring it up.

&uot;Other people pay more attention to it being my last year than I do,&uot; the 73-year-old Whitney said. &uot;The thing I’m interested in is winning games. The time will come to thing about this being over, but it’s not now.&uot;

But you can’t help but hope the old &uot;Whiz&uot; has some cards up his sleeve to go on one final run.

The cards aren’t in his Braves’ favor with Friday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinal SWAC Tournament tilt with Prairie View, the top seed and a squad that swept the season series with the Braves.

&uot;Your team always has an advantage the third time around, but this is the tournament,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;It’s a put up or shut up situation.We don’t match their experience.

&uot;They start three seniors and a junior college transfer. I’ve got a freshman guard (DeAndre Jones) and another one (Alleo Frazier) backing him up and only one starter (Brian Jackson) with a lot of court experience.&uot;

Whitney hopes since the Panthers have never made it this far in the SWAC tourney &045; their regualr season title was the first since 1962 &045; they will be off their game.

He better hope. With scorers like SWAC Player of the Year guard Gregory Burks and Newcomer of the Year forward Malachi Thurston and a wide body in the middle Roderick Randall (6-11, 290-pounds) the Braves are going to need all the help advantages they can ascertain.

&uot;We know we can beat them because the way they won was making their free throws both times,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;The three keys for us will be keeping the off of the foul line, making good decisions and not letting them get easy shots.

&uot;I know our kids are ready to play. (Prairie View) is going to have to come ready because I know our kids are up.