Gators, Lady Vikes make Coca-Cola Classic finals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2001

[10/31/01] One thing if for sure when playing Warren Central: Get ready to work.

The Vikings (2-1) harassed No. 3 Natchez with a tenacious pressing defense, only to come up short, 69-66, in the second round of the Coca-Cola Classic.

“We got after against a very good team,” said WC coach Preston Wilson, whose team battled back from double digit deficits twice. “We made some critical turnovers down the stretch… but overall our kids worked hard and gave us every chance to win the ballgame.”

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Jekel Foster, who scored 31 in Natchez’s (2-0) win over Northwest Rankin in the opening round, scored a game-high 28 and Oliver Stewart added 14 for the Bulldogs.

Clifford Walker had 21 10 in the fourth quarter to lead the Vikings, while twin brother Clifton added 12. Chi-Chi Ezekwe, a Port Gibson transfer, had nine points and eight blocked shots.

“We didn’t play as well tonight breaking the press and we made some mistakes,” said Foster, a 6-foot-2 guard who is considering LSU, Southern Miss and Alabama-Birmingham. “They got pumped up and fed off of our mistakes.”

Natchez opened a 47-37 lead with two minutes to play in the third quarter, but the Vikings cut the lead to 51-45 at the end of the third quarter.

Four minutes into the fourth, a pair of Clifford Walker free throws knotted the game at 59 WC’s first tie.

“Our kids are starting to believe in the system and know that if we are down, we still have a chance to win the game,” Wilson said. “I think we got (Natchez) tired, but we couldn’t capitalize.”

WC turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions with a chance to take the lead and never got closer than 63-61.

Clifford Walker’s third 3-pointer with four seconds to play got WC to within 69-66, but with no timeouts, the Vikings could do nothing to keep the clock from running out.

“I told them we have confidence in them and they can play with anyone,” said Wilson, who will match up with McComb in the consolation game at Vicksburg High on Thursday. “If we put some things together, we’ll be OK.”

WC 75, Natchez 65

The Lady Vikes had four players score in double figures and held off a rally by division-foe Natchez (1-1) to set up a rematch in the finals of the tournament.

Point guard LaShanda Williams scored a game-high 19 points and Wendy Thomas added 16 and eight rebounds as WC (3-0) looks to repeat as tournament champions against No. 3 Provine on Thursday.

“Both our guards played extremely well,” WC coach Donny Fuller said. “I looked over and LaShanda is cramping up, her foot is bothering her, yet she just keeps on playing.”

Chasity Blue had 12 points and nine rebounds and Wanda Calvin added 14. JaQuita Benard grabbed 10 rebounds.

Warren Central held a 20-6 lead at the end of the first quarter, then Natchez pressed. The Lady Bulldogs to within 55-53 with six minutes left in the game, but could get no closer.

“We knew they were going to press,” Fuller said. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect.”

The two teams will meet at least twice more in division play.

Asked if the future games will be as competitive, Natchez coach Mary Irving said, “Let’s hope not.”