Vicksburg dropkicks Natchez, 74-53|[2/16/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

All Vicksburg High basketball coach Dellie C. Robinson asks of his team this time of year is to get out of division.

Forget a season that saw the Gators go 14-16. Forget a bevy of games in which the team had huge second-half leads only to watch them dissipate. Forget everything and get out of division.

Behind what Robinson called the best performance of the season, the Gators walloped top-seeded Natchez 74-53 in the opening round of the Division 6-5A Tournament on Tuesday.

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“Just win the first game, baby,” a jubilant Robinson said. “Just win that first game and we’ll worry about the rest later.”

The Gators (15-16) will now play Warren Central in the title game on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The Gators put Tuesday night’s game out of reach early. Four Gators scored in double figures, led by Sederick Williams’ 22 points, and Vicksburg controlled the boards against the taller Bulldogs.

“They beat us before on our home floor and then beat us down there by like 20,” said Vicksburg’s Brandon Harper, who scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “This game was really, really big for us. We wanted it bad.”

Harper and Edwin Gaskin, who scored 13 points, led a stifling man-to-man defense. The Gators work on man defense in practice but rarely use it, opting instead for a zone.

“We realized a couple games ago that we had to switch to a man,” Robinson said. “I thought I saw it when we played man defense against Warren Central, and we’ve been playing it ever since.”

Vicksburg held a 37-22 halftime lead behind Williams’ 12 first-half points. The Gators extended the lead to as many as 23 in the third quarter. The cold-shooting Bulldogs connected on 17-of-53 shots for the game and never threatened after halftime.

“I’m speechless,” Gaskin said. “It just feels great.”

Vicksburg kept the lead at around 20 throughout the fourth quarter and Natchez began launching 3-pointers early in the period.

Rodney Gray scored a team-high 18 points, the only Bulldog in double figures.

Point guard Fred Thomas poured in 11 points in the win.

“Our guys did every single thing I asked them to do,” Robinson said. “I told them after the game that if they just listen to the old man, everything will be all right.”