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Vikings end season with loss to Moss Point

Warren Central players Jamie Judge, Anthony Lewis and Otis Stamps, from left, sit stunned on the bench at the end of the Vikings’ 69-66 loss to Moss Point in the South State satellite game on Tuesday. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[2/25/04]The team that never said die finally ran out of gas on a damp Tuesday night at Warren Central.

The Vikings, a surprise team in the state tournament carrying a losing record, played a deeper, taller, more physical Moss Point team to the wire before falling 69-66 in the South State satellite game.

The loss eliminates the Vikings, who carried a three-game winning streak and a wave of momentum into the game.

“It was a tough one, but our team showed a lot of heart and they never gave up,” first-year WC coach Jesse Johnson said. “They didn’t bow down when they were outsized. They stayed with the game plan and did an excellent job.

“It’s just a shame that it took so many games for us to get into our caliber of play.”

Warren Central ends its season at 13-16. The team began the season 1-7 and lost seven games by five points or less.

The Vikings charged through the Division 6-5A Tournament, beating defending Class 5A state champion Vicksburg, then Natchez en route to the satellite game.

“We knew we had good athletes, we just had to work on a few mental things,” Johnson said. “I really believe we are the best 13-16 team in the state.”

The Vikings came within a charge call of possibly extending their season by at least a weekend.

Trailing 66-63 with 25 seconds to play, WC’s Chico Hunter slammed into Calvin Payton under the basket. The shot went in, but a charge was whistled giving the ball back to the Tigers.

“That call wasn’t supposed to go like that,” said WC’s Brian Phelps, who led all scorers with 18 points. “Chico went up and the guy moved under him. But I’m not the ref, I can’t call that. In my eyes, it was a block.”

Payton was fouled on the inbounds pass and, despite missing his first four attempts of the game, cooly hit two free throws to extend the lead to 68-63.

A WC turnover and another Payton free throw with 5 seconds to play gave the Tigers a 69-63 lead. Marcus Harvey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer provided the final margin.

“We didn’t expect to come in here and have them lay down,” Moss Point coach Brian Brooks said. “We’re just happy to get out of here with a win. We’re happy to get back to the Coast.”

For the first 28 minutes, the game was an up-and-down, pressure filled contest, each team turning the ball over a bevy of times and getting easy baskets in transition.

Moss Point nearly ran away with the game in the third quarter after taking a one-point deficit and turning it into a 7-point lead. The run was highlighted by a breakaway slam dunk by Payton that forced WC into a time out.

“We thought we had them there,” Booker said. “But they have a great team and made a run at us.”

WC responded with a 10-4 run to get to within one point at 53-52, and in the process got several Tigers in foul trouble.

With leading scorer Tim McCrory fouled out and Brandon King hampered with four fouls, the Tigers slowed down the pace midway through the fourth quarter. The Tigers only had a 2-point lead at the time and the Vikings capitalized.

A pair of free throws by Seddrick Williams tied the game at 61 with 53 seconds to play. Moss Point rallied for a 5-0 run to take a 5-point lead until Hunter hit a basket to cut the deficit to three.

“We knew, eventually, we would wear them down,” Booker said. “At halftime, we saw that their guards were grabbing their shorts.”

McCrory scored 14 points for the Tigers and Payton added 15, including the team’s only 3-pointer.

In addition to Phelps’ 18, Harvey scored 15, while Williams added 13 and Hunter 11 for the Vikings.