Vicksburg sweeps WC in pair of thrillers: Gators hold on for 65-64 victory
Published 12:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003
Vicksburg High players celebrate during the final moments of the Gators’ 65-64 win over archrival Warren Central on Saturday. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)
[2/2/03]As Chi Chi Ezekwe’s last-second jumper clanged off the rim, it summed up Warren Central’s afternoon on Saturday close, but no victory cigar.
Vicksburg’s L.J. Scott converted a 3-point play with 32.4 seconds to play and WC failed to score on its last two trips down the floor as VHS won, 65-64.
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The victory clinched the No. 1 seed in next week’s Division 4-5A tournament for the Gators, as well as their fourth straight 20-win season.
“It’s just gotten us to the next step,” said Scott, who led the Gators (20-7, 5-1 Division 4-5A) with 15 points and nine rebounds. “It’s a big win, but this isn’t where we want to be. Our goal is the Coliseum, and to win it all.”
Dewayne Washington had a game-high 21 points for WC, while Ezekwe had 13 points and three blocked shots and Brian Phelps added 15 points.
Jamaal Thomas had 14 points for VHS, Roy Williams and Sedrick Williams each had 13, and Cedric Parson had eight points and six blocked shots.
Phelps hit two 3-pointers in the first 2 1/2 minutes as WC jumped out to a 21-8 lead. VHS answered with a 7-0 run at the end of the first quarter to cut it to 21-15, but the Vikings stopped the bleeding there and took a 40-35 lead into halftime.
“It shocked me, because I didn’t think (Phelps) could hit two or three 3s the way he did,” VHS coach Dellie Robinson said of WC’s fast start.
Early in the third quarter, the game turned in Vicksburg’s favor.
Washington and Phelps, who combined for 25 of WC’s 40 points in the first half, both picked up their third foul less than three minutes into the second half and were forced to the bench.
VHS promptly took advantage, going on a 13-2 run to take its first lead of the game. Sedrick Williams hit a 3-pointer with 2:02 to play in the quarter to cap the run and put VHS ahead, 48-45.
VHS outscored WC 18-7 in the third quarter, and 18-4 after Phelps’ 3-pointer in the opening minute, and led 53-47 at the end of the period.
“They got us in foul trouble and made a run on us,” WC coach Preston Wilson said. “It definitely changed things a lot. Brian had probably one of his best games … Once they went out, we lost a little rhythm.”
Washington returned in the fourth quarter and teamed up with Ezekwe to lead the Vikings’ comeback. WC chipped away at the lead, and cut it to 62-61 on an 8-footer by Washington that was set up by Ezekwe’s steal on the defensive end. Ezekwe then hit a layup with 1:14 to play to put the Vikings ahead 63-62.
Washington hit the front end of a one-and-one with 51.6 seconds to play to put WC up by two, but airballed the second free throw. The miss came back to haunt the Vikings.
With just over 30 seconds to play, Scott drove the lane for a layup and drew a foul. He calmly sank the ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play and put VHS back in front, 65-64.
After a WC timeout, VHS’ Jones came up with a steal with 13.1 seconds to play. He was forced to call timeout, however, and Scott threw an errant pass on the ensuing possession that Ezekwe stole along the far sideline to set up the Vikings’ last chance.
With 4.1 seconds to go, the Vikings inbounded the ball to Ezekwe and he got a good look along the baseline. It bounced off the side of the rim and Jones who had twisted his ankle and took two nasty falls earlier in the second half leapt high in the air for the rebound as time expired.
“(Parson) got in my face, but I still think I could’ve made it,” Ezekwe said of the final shot. He added that he wasn’t the first option on the play, but got the ball and a good look. “That’s not how we planned it. I was just open.”
The loss didn’t affect WC’s seeding for the division tournament. Clinton’s victory over Natchez on Friday assured the Arrows of at least the No. 3 seed and put Natchez in at No. 4.
Clinton plays at WC on Tuesday, and the two teams will meet again in the first round of the tournament, regardless of the outcome.
“Everything is pretty much settled now,” Wilson said.