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Lady Vikes win thriller over Natchez

Natchez center Brian Williams crashes into Warren Central’s Daryl Harper, right, as WC’s Marcus Harvey helps defend during the Vikings’ win on Friday night. WC scored in the closing seconds to take the victory. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

Cookie Johnson started her afternoon at the doctor’s office and finished by leading her Warren Central teammates to one of the most unlikely wins of the season.

The standout sophomore, who was suffering a severe sore throat and headache, scored a game-high 20 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked five shots and had three steals in the Lady Vikes’ 71-65 overtime win over Division 6-5A powerhouse Natchez (15-2, 1-2) on Friday night.

“Dr. Ford told me … fatigue would probably set in and that we’d probably not get a whole lot out of her tonight,” said WC coach Donny Fuller, whose team improved to 9-9 and 1-1 in division. “If that’s not getting a whole lot out of her, I’ll take a whole lot out of her any night.”

Added to Johnson’s sickness was her two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the game. With the sophomore on the bench, Natchez raced out to a 16-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to as many as 17 midway through the second quarter, 29-12. WC shot 1-for-16 from the floor in the first quarter.

“We played team ball. Finally,” Johnson said after the game. “Nobody got down and we started playing hard. We kept saying, relax, we’re gonna win this.'”

The shots that missed badly early started falling as WC cut the lead to 12 at halftime, 35-23.

“They used a half-court trap right before the half and gave us a little problem and got some momentum,” Natchez assistant coach Steve McClatchy said. “They started the same thing at the beginning of the third quarter and we kind of stalled out on offense.”

Karmethia Mazique led four Natchez players in double figures with 16, while Gloria Lewis and Crystal L. Brown had 13 each and Delequa Drake had 10.

Carla Latham had seven points and nine rebounds for WC and Saleda Montgomery had eight, but three of those came at the end of the third quarter from 30-feet away as the buzzer sounded as WC built a 44-40 lead. WC outscored Natchez 21-5 in the third.

WC held the lead for most of the fourth quarter until Drake’s layup and free throw put Natchez up 56-54. A missed 3-pointer was rebounded by Tranyce Peoples, who nailed a 10-footer with four seconds to play to send the game into overtime.

In the overtime, both Mazique and Brown fouled out and the Lady Vikes were 8-of-9 from the free-throw line to secure the win.

“I was nervous, but I wanted to take my time, take a deep breath and relax,” said WC’s Brittany Banks, who hit 5 of 6 free throws in the overtime. “They all felt pretty good.”

For Fuller, the win felt just as good.

“I’ve been in this game more than 20 years and I have seen the Lady Vikes suck it up when no one thought they could,” Fuller said. “… I don’t ever give up on them. I know what they are made of and we don’t give up until the final horn.”

WC 44, Natchez 42

Dewayne Washington scored off a missed shot with two seconds to play as the Vikings held on to win a division showdown over Natchez.

With the game tied at 42, WC’s Ronnie Jones drove from half court to the basket, missed the shot, then Washington grabbed the rebound. The clock ran out before Natchez could get off a desperation heave.

The heroics were set up after WC blew a 16-point, first-half lead.