Lady Vikes drop heartbreaker

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Warren Central’s Brittany Willis, left, and Amanda Doyle (22) try to keep a rebound away from Clinton’s Sasha Goodlett (45) during Tuesday’s game. (Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[1/12/05] CLINTON Sheena Johnson stood just past her own foul line Tuesday night, with only 6.4 seconds, five snarling defenders and 65 feet between her, the basket and overtime.

The Clinton junior took the inbounds pass and weaved around and through the Warren Central players who were wary of fouling the deadeye free throw shooter. Johnson reached her goal with time to spare and put up a shot that settled softly into the net as the buzzer sounded.

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On a normal night, Johnson’s play would have been the one everyone was talking about the next day. On Tuesday, it was almost lost as just a piece of one of the best basketball games of the season.

Johnson’s basket capped a wild 90 seconds that saw four lead changes or ties. It also forced an overtime period in which Clinton survived three potential go-ahead baskets by Warren Central in the last 20 seconds.

When the dust finally settled, No. 6 Clinton had escaped with a 66-65 win and the coaches involved were ranking it among the best games they’d ever seen.

“The best game I had ever seen was the 1974 South State championship game. Warren Central beat Gulfport 64-60. That right there replaces that game,” WC coach Donny Fuller said. “That’s the best basketball. Just two good teams, everyone getting after each other and laying it all on the line.”

Johnson led Clinton (17-3) with 27 points, Katorra Lewis added 23 points and nine rebounds and Ryan Heard had 11 points.

Cookie Johnson scored 19 of her team-high 25 points in the second half and overtime for WC (13-5), and also grabbed nine rebounds. Carla Latham added 11 points, and Brittany Banks scored 10.

Neither team ever led by more than five points, but things got really tight in the fourth quarter.

Sheena Johnson’s 3-pointer with 5:30 to play tied the game at 51, and the teams traded baskets and free throws from there all the while lamenting a host of missed opportunities early.

Warren Central missed a half-dozen layups in the first half, while Clinton was 3-for-8 from the line in the first two quarters before finishing 7-for-18 for the game.

“We missed too many free shots, too many close shots to win a close ballgame,” Fuller said. “Like I told them, the play at the end didn’t lose the ballgame.”

Sheena Johnson’s turnaround jumper put Clinton ahead 56-53 with 1:38 to go. Cookie Johnson answered with a layup on WC’s next possession and a three-point play 20 seconds later to give the Lady Vikes a 58-56 edge.

Clinton tied the game with 15 seconds remaining on a layup by Lewis, but WC’s Banks brought the ball up the floor and hit Latham with a beautiful bounce pass through traffic for an easy basket and a 60-58 lead. That set up Sheena Johnson’s mad dash down the floor and a thrilling overtime.

“When I called timeout, I just told her to take it all the way to the basket. It’s not everybody that gets that opportunity, and she’s that one player who can do it as well as anybody,” Clinton coach Gary Miller said of Johnson’s basket.

Clinton scored the first four points of the extra period before WC rallied to tie it. A basket by Lewis with under two minutes to play put Clinton back in front, 66-64, and Latham scored the final point of the game on a free throw with 50.1 seconds remaining.

Latham missed the second of two free throws, and it was the first of four misfires for WC in the last minute of the game.

As time wound down, the Lady Vikes held for the last shot and got the ball into Cookie Johnson’s hands. She spied an opening in the defense and drove toward the goal, pulling up just outside the lane to launch an 8-footer.

The ball went into the hoop as the WC players began to celebrate, then rattled off the inside of the rim and back out.

“I should have followed my shot. I just got too hyped. I thought it was going in and it rolled on out,” Cookie Johnson said.

WC was forced to foul, and Lewis missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Lady Vikes another life. The Lady Vikes misfired on an open layup attempt, then fouled Clinton again. After another miss, WC had one last desperation shot but it missed.

Afterward, Miller caught his breath and backed Fuller’s assessment of the game as a classic.

“It’s definitely got to be in the top three. It was a real exciting game,” Miller said. “We’ve had some close ones, been in the Coliseum a few times. But for a regular-season game, this has definitely got to be up there toward the top.”

(B) WC 54, Clinton 44

Chico Hunter scored 14 points and Andy Anderton added 12 as Warren Central slogged its way to a win over Clinton.

The Vikings (10-8) used a 5-0 spurt in the final minute of the third quarter to gain some space, and kept the lead around 10 points the rest of the way. Clinton never got closer than seven points in the fourth quarter.

Justin Burse led the Arrows with 15 points and Quincy McQuirter scored 12.