Williams saves Missy Gators

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Katina Cooper of VHS drives around Northwest Rankin’s Stephanie Boggans.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[10/30/01]Shalonda Williams saved Vicksburg High from an embarrassing loss in the first round of the Coca-Cola Classic on Monday night.

The junior scored the Missy Gators’ final six points as they withstood 11-of-31 shooting from the free-throw line to beat Northwest Rankin, 57-55.

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All that mattered to VHS coach Mike Coleman was that his team found a way to win.

“Last year, we would have figured out a way to lose it,” he said.

Marguerite Sims led VHS (1-1) with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals while Williams, who sat out most of the first half in foul trouble, had 13 points and five steals, all in the second half. LaToya Trunell added 10 points.

“Maybe it was just the jitters,” Sims said of the Missy Gators’ first home game of the season.

They’ll need to be rid of those before tonight, when they face Provine, ranked No. 3 in The Clarion-Ledger’s preseason poll.

“Our half-court trap was the difference,” Coleman said. “They had a tough time with it.”

Lindsey Dukes, a transfer from Brandon High, led Northwest Rankin with 19 and Leigh Anne Foster chipped in 14.

The Lady Cougars led most of the game, taking a 30-23 lead into the half and a 44-43 advantage into the fourth quarter.

With Dukes on the bench in foul trouble, Williams sparked VHS with a 3-pointer and a layup after back-to-back steals. Tiffany Hubbard followed with a steal and assist on a Sims’ layup during the third-quarter flurry.

Katina Cooper hit a big 3 after Hubbard’s two straight layups to start the fourth quarter. Both came off the bench.

“Our depth’s going to be our strength this year,” Coleman said.

After VHS missed three breakaway layups, Foster tied it 52-52 with three minutes left and Dukes’ three-point play gave Northwest a 55-54 lead with just under two minutes to go. Another Williams steal and layup put VHS up by one. She missed her free throws, but Rae Evans rebounded.

“That was the play of the game,” Coleman said, adding that Hubbard also “played big.”

In the final 30 seconds, Tricia Dart got a steal and Sims deflected the ball off a Northwest player with 8.6 seconds left. Foster got off a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was an airball.

The Missy Gators made just 5 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter. They were 20-of-43 in their season-opening loss at Choctaw Central.

“We’re going to try not to overemphasize it,” Coleman said of the free-throw woes. “As long as they’re trying hard, the free throws will fall. I just want us to relax. We’re putting too much pressure on ourselves.”