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VHS splits pair with Natchez

{1/25/03}NATCHEZ Natchez was just toying with Vicksburg.

The slow, painful demise is always the worst, isn’t it?

The Missy Gators (12-11, 2-3 Division 4-5A) saw the two-point lead that they clung to for an entire half, rapidly disappear when Natchez High threw in its press defense to open the third period.

Four straight Vicksburg turnovers and successive Crystal L. Brown baskets vaulted the Lady Bulldogs (19-2, 3-2) to a lead they never surrendered in a 61-48 victory Friday.

“We feel like if we work hard on defense and create problems, everything else will fall into place,” said Jasmine Woods, who scored 10 in a backup role. “The offense will come to us if we play defense.”

Tiffany Hubbard led VHS with 16 points, and Tricia Dart added 15.

Brown led all scorers with 17, despite missing most of the first half due to early foul trouble. She began to make her presence known in the third period during a 17-4 run where she scored 10 points.

“I picked up three fouls in the first quarter which caused me to miss all of the second,” Brown said of her early struggles. “I had to come out in the second half and play like I know how to play.”

Brown set the tone early in the second half when she scored eight straight points to turn a 29-27 halftime deficit into a 35-29 Natchez lead with 4:33 to play in the third period.

When interim head coach Sue Johnson open the second half with a fullcourt press, the Missy Gators appeared out of sync.

Vicksburg became careless with the ball, turning it over on ill-advised passes and violations.

“The press got to us there in the second half,” said Missy Gators head coach Mike Coleman. “We started jumping in the air and making passes and you just cannot do that.

“We just didn’t respond well in the third after we lost the lead.”

The win put Natchez, the hosts for the division tournament, in good position to get the No. 1 seed.

“Natchez is 3-2 now. If we had won tonight and next Saturday (against Warren Central), we could have been No. 1. Now everything is up in the air again,” Coleman said.

(B) VHS 51, Natchez 30

Roy Williams dropped in all 13 first period points for Vicksburg (17-6, 4-1 Division 4-5A) as the Gators were tested, but ensured themselves of the No. 1 seed in the Division 4-5A tournament with a 51-30 win over Natchez.

“Once we came out strong, we could tell they were shell-shocked,” said Williams, who finished with 17 points. “They stopped attacking us on offense and backed away from us on defense.”

After trailing by nine at the end of the first quarter, Natchez used a 9-0 run to get back in the game. A basket by Brian Williams capped the run and cut the deficit to 17-15 with 2:45 left in the second quarter.

Natchez (8-13, 1-4) never tied it, though, as VHS built on a 10-point third quarter lead in the fourth on outside shooting and free throws.

“We just had an off-night shooting the ball,” said Brian Williams, who led Natchez with eight points. “We were ready for this game, but we just finished sluggish.”

Sedrick Williams, who finished with 14 points, connected on two of his four 3-pointers in the fourth, the second of which gave VHS a 20-point lead, 42-22, with 4:09 to play.