Southwest visits Co-Lin for crucial South showdown

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2002

It’s supposed to be a hot time in the old town of Wessontonight. The highest temperatures will be radiating from MullenGymnasium on the Copiah-Lincoln Community College campus.

Ancient rivals Co-Lin and Southwest will tip it off in aregular-season South Division doubleheader and a large crowd isexpected. The women’s game starts at 6, followed by the men at7:45. On a scale from 1-10, importance of this confrontation ranksa 10.

These games will decide who wins the regular season SouthDivision title and No. 1 seeding in next week’s state tournament.This is the first year for the North and South Division tournamentsnot to be held. The old format saw the top two finishers out ofeach division tournament advancing to state.

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The Co-Lin Lady Wolves are ranked No. 9 in the latest NJCAANational Poll. They are 19-2 overall and 9-2 in the SouthDivision.

According to Co-Lin women’s coach Gwyn Young, his Lady Wolveshave been erratic during the season. They had another close call atPear River last Thursday, escaping with a 1-point win. They wereambushed at East Central the previous week.

“At times we have played well,” said Young, who is in his 27thyear at Co-Lin. “There are a lot of things I would like to see usdo better. Our intensity needs to be greater. We need to do abetter job on defense.

“Sometimes we get out of whack on offense and don’t run it likewe need to.”

Cat-quick freshman guard Tiania Burns leads the Lady Wolves inscoring. She is supported by two strong sophomore post players inMindy Livaudais and Christy Brown.

In the North Division, Northeast and Itawamba are both 9-2.Holmes and Northwest are 7-4. Tomorrow night’s games will bedecisive for seeding.

The State Tournament starts Monday with the men and Tuesday withthe women. It’s a 4-night tournament. Semifinals are Wednesday,featuring two women’s games and two men’s games. The finals will beThursday night.

Southwest’s women are 17-4 overall and 9-2, losing SouthDivision games to Jones County and Pearl River. The Lady Bears lostearly in the season to Holmes and split with Northwest.

Looking at the rest of South Division records, Pearl River is8-3, East Central 6-5. Gulf Coast 4-7, East Central 6-5 and Hinds0-11.

Coach Mark Swindle of Southwest takes pride in defense. “I’mreally proud of my bunch on defense. We are holding opponents to 33percent from the field. The Lady Bears hit 41 percent of theirshots.

“We were real fortunate to make shots in the first game withCo-Lin,” said Swindle, recalling the 68-64 win at Summit.Offensively, we have several people who can shoot it.”

The Lady Bears don’t press much unless they’re far behind.Opponents average 61 points per game to Southwest’s 73.

“I hope we can hold Burns to under 20 points,” said Swindle. TheLady Bears were 13-12 last year.

The top four teams advance to State Tournament, located at thehome of the North Division men’s champion, probably Itawamba.

Co-Lin lost the last meeting. “We must play a lot better againstthem this time if we want to win,” said Young. “Last time they madeus not perform like we should.”

Nakia Downing, a 6-foot freshman post from Amite, La., isSouthwest’s top player, averaging 16.8 points and 11.2 rebounds pergame. She also has blocked 42 shots, making her a tower of power inthe paint. Southwest’s next leading scorer is Traci Forest, a 5-9sophomore guard from Kentwood, who averages 12.4 ppg.

“They have a bunch of people who can play,” said Young. “They’resolid in every spot.”

Swindle is in his second year as head coach at Southwest.Swindle came to Southwest from Parklane Academy. He coached 2 yearsat Parklane and 8 at Columbia Academy.

Young said Swindle has produced a strong squad at Southwest. “Hehas done a really good job with them. He has them playinghard.”

Southwest, coached by Bill Wallace, is leading the SouthDivision men’s race. Gulf Coast is second and Jones County third. ACo-Lin win would seed the Wolves fourth if East Central losestonight. The Wolves (7-14, 4-7) have swept Hinds which also is tiedfor fourth place.

The Bears are 9-2 in the South Division, 18-3 overall and rankedNo. 20 in the latest Men’s NJCAA poll. Losses have come at thehands of Delgado (La.), Jones County and Co-Lin. Obviously, theBears have something to prove after losing to Co-Lin 58-56 atSummit, on Jan. 28. Co-Lin is playing for pride and a slim chanceof claiming the No. 4 seed out of the South.

“Two things that have really helped us is experience and ourquickness on defense,” said Wallace. He said Josh Reed, a 6-5sophomore forward from South Pike, has a foot injury. Brent Butleris slowed by a sore ankle.

Willie Depron, a 6-foot freshman guard, averages 13 points pergame for Southwest. Brandon Griffin, a 6-7 forward, averages 12ppg. Guard Khyri Galmore averages 10 ppg.

In his fourth year as head coach, Wallace must replace 10sophomores at Southwest after this season. “They’ve been a fungroup to work with.” His Bears were 13-13 last year.

Coach Dennis Sims directed the Wolves to a runners-up finish inlast year’s state tournament but the top three scorers graduated.Co-Lin is led by sophomore playmaker Bruce Smith and freshmanforward Jason Scott. The Wolves have fared better on the road thisseason than at home.