Gators rally past Brandon, 72-59|[2/12/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

For a while Friday night, it looked like a pregame ceremony would be the only highlight for the Vicksburg Gators.

A couple of hours later, it was just one of many.

Brandon Harper scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, helping Vicksburg overcome a 16-point first-half deficit and beat Brandon 72-59 on senior night.

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The Gators went 21-for-30 from the free throw line in the second half and scored 32 points in the fourth quarter.

“We were getting outhustled and outplayed in the first quarter and a half,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “We were turning it over and weren’t hustling. So I told the kids, ‘hey, in this game if you can’t hustle you can’t play anymore tonight.'”

The pregame ceremony for the Gators’ seniors wasn’t the only special moment. VHS senior Sederick Williams was also honored as a nominee for the McDonald’s All-American team. He is one of 1,500 players selected nationwide.

Williams had 10 points, five assists and two rebounds on Friday.

“It’s real big. I’ve never heard of anyone getting something like that,” said Williams, who didn’t know he had been nominated for the team until the ceremony. “It made me feel good.”

Brandon made Williams and the Gators (14-16) look undeserving of the award early on. The Bulldogs went on a 19-5 run over the first six minutes of the second quarter to open a 33-17 lead.

After a timeout with 2:05 to play in the second quarter, however, the Gators were a changed team. They finished the half with an 11-2 run, capped by Williams’ long 3-pointer at the buzzer, and started the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt to close to within 35-34.

“That was huge. That gave us momentum,” Robinson said of Williams’ 3-pointer, a 30-foot bank shot that cut Brandon’s lead to 35-28 at halftime. “We were down a little bit because they were outplaying us. We had some momentum going into the second half, and we came out in the second half for one of the few times this year and did a tremendous job.”

Brandon pushed the lead back to seven points, 47-40, by the end of the third but couldn’t keep it.

Vicksburg needed less than two minutes of the fourth quarter to erase the deficit, and took the lead for good at 50-49 on a pair of free throws by Edwin Gaskin with 6:06 to play. The shots were part of a 24-4 Vicksburg run and two of the 20 trips the Gators took to the line in the fourth quarter. That was four more free throws than Brandon took in the entire game.

“We were fouling,” Brandon coach Frederick Barnes said. “The officials had to make the calls, and they made them. We weren’t in positions, and we didn’t play a very smart game defensively in the second half.”

(G) Brandon 48, VHS 42

Vicksburg got close enough to sense victory Friday night, but never near enough to grasp it.

The Missy Gators missed two 3-pointers in the final 25 seconds and Brandon went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the same span to eke out a six-point victory.

Holly Dial led Brandon (17-10) with 17 points and five steals. Rachel Jenkins had a game-high 15 points for Vicksburg (14-16).

“We hit our free throws and they didn’t. That was the difference in the ballgame,” Brandon coach Linda Dear said.

Vicksburg used a 6-1 run midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game at 34, then traded baskets with the Lady Bulldogs for the next three minutes.

A rebound basket by Jessica Burch with about 30 seconds left put Brandon ahead 44-42, and VHS had a shot to gain the lead on its next trip up the floor. Cre’Tarsha Taylor’s 3-pointer was off-target, however, and Brandon’s Shon Farmer grabbed the rebound.

“(Taylor) was open and it was there. I thought it was in,” Vicksburg coach Mike Coleman said. “It wasn’t a bad shot. It just didn’t drop.”

After two free throws by Dial made it 46-42, VHS’ Tiffany Williams missed another 3-pointer at the other end that would have cut the deficit to one.

Dial was fouled and hit two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to seal it.