Corder: Still crazy: No. 8 Valley in title game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

King Arthur didn’t slay this many dragons. David would’ve said, ‘Y’all find another king,’ if the Philistines had thrown another Goliath in his face. At some point, even Yogi got tired of running from the ranger.

But Nathaniel Kilbert’s ragtag group of Devilettes has laughed in the face of adversities all the way to the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament finals today.

Mississippi Valley, the eighth seed that entered the tourney 6-20, has more lives than Sylvester, Garfield and Morris combined.

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It trailed by as many as 15 against Alabama State Wednesday before it sent the top seed packing 57-52. On Friday, the Devilettes were dead and buried against No. 5 Grambling, down 20 during the first half before pulling a Houdini, coming back to survive a 76-75 affair.

&uot;These are not sad tears, these are tears of joy,&uot; said Kilbert, who served as an assistant to Shirley Walker at Alcorn from 1991-2001 before jumping to Valley. &uot;I didn’t win this game. To get down 20 points and come back the way we did, no kind of coaching can bring you this. The want to win came from their heart. We wore them down. All Coach Nate was doing was screaming and yelling.&uot;

Walker was sitting courtside during the two biggest wins of Kilbert’s career this week. Undoubtedly, she’d rather have been in Grambling’s shoes facing her protg Friday, but the Lady Tigers 86ed that with Wednesday’s 81-77 victory.

However, the Lady Braves’ exit didn’t stop Walker from popping buttons after watching her former quiet, humble assistant reach his first pair of benchmark victories.

&uot;Something went over me as I watched his face,&uot; Walker said. &uot;He looked like nothing was phasing him, but I know from head-to-toe, he was tickled pink. And I was tickled, tickled pink for him.&uot;

If those two were pink, then Rejohnna Anthony was darn near fuchsia. Anthony got a lot of splinters her first two years at Alcorn watching her team repeat as SWAC tourney champs.

When Kilbert got the Valley job, Anthony transferred with him, redshirted her first year to save the two remaining years of eligibility and is now one of Valley’s stars.

&uot;I had a struggle with things not going my way,&uot; she said. &uot;I knew we could come in to this tournament and do this. I feel like I belong in the championship game. It’s my time to win a ring as the starting point guard.&uot;

The way the Devilettes have played during their last two contests, they all belong. There was a lot of chatter being bounced around before the SWAC about Valley, but it was for the top-seeded men, not the bottom-feeder women.

The Alcorn men’s upset Thursday forced the Devils to check out of the downtown Birmingham Radisson earlier than expected.

Now a school, which expected one team an ensured spot in the Dance, may still get to punch its ticket, just with the underdog Devilettes instead of the fellows.

Talk about being tickled pink.

Chuck Corder

is a sports writer for The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at (601) 445-3633 or at