Gators vault into South State|[2/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Vicksburg Gators have proven they can win at home in the postseason. Now they get to see how they do on the road.

Edwin Gaskin had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Fred Thomas scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and Vicksburg beat Hattiesburg 70-61 in the Class 5A South State satellite game Tuesday night at Vicksburg High.

The victory propelled Vicksburg into the South State tournament this weekend at Biloxi. The Gators will face second-ranked Biloxi in the first round Friday at 8 p.m.

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“It feels great to be back. We’ve got our hands cut out for us, but we don’t care who we play. We just want to play,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said with a smile.

Adrian Williams scored 24 points for Hattiesburg (15-17), which overcame a 10-point halftime deficit before becoming the Gators’ latest victim at the gym known as “The Swamp.”

VHS (17-16) won the Division 6-5A tournament on its home floor as a No. 4 seed, earning the home game Tuesday. Hattiesburg coach Yama Jones said he was displeased with Vicksburg’s hospitality in more ways than one.

“We came up last night and asked if we could shoot around, and they just flat out told us no. If they had came to Hattiesburg, we’d have rolled out the red carpet for them,” said Jones, whose team was allowed to practice at Warren Central on Monday. “I don’t know if they just didn’t want us to get used to the goals or what. You hope at this time of year they show some hospitality.”

At the start of the game it looked as if the Gators were the ones who didn’t know the rims. They missed nine of their first 10 shots and fell behind 11-2 late in the first quarter.

Sederick Williams snapped Vicksburg’s slump by scoring seven of the nine points in a 9-0 run at the end of the period, and the Gators went on to outscore Hattiesburg 26-16 in the second to take a 37-27 halftime lead.

The momentum swung back in Hattiesburg’s favor in the third quarter, however. The Tigers went 8-for-11 from the field and 7-for-9 from the foul line to get back in the game.

Terrance Swinson hit a pair of free throws with a minute to play in the period to tie the game at 49, then made a layup with 10 seconds to play to give Hattiesburg a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We had them where we wanted them and we just didn’t get it done. We tell them what to do, and with a bunch of young guys you just don’t know what to expect,” said Jones, who has no seniors and only one junior on his roster. “I’m proud of the way they played in the third quarter.”

The lead was the Tigers’ first since Vicksburg overtook them late in the first quarter, and it was also their last.

Thomas hit a 3-pointer and two free throws to key a 7-0 Gator run midway through the fourth quarter, and Vicksburg never trailed again. Hattiesburg cut it to 57-55 on Adrian Williams’ three-point play with about 3:30 to go, but Gaskin answered with a three-point play of his own to push Vicksburg’s lead back to five.

The Gators hit a series of free throws down the stretch, and Gaskin capped the win with a thunderous dunk as time expired. As Gaskin went up for the dunk, fans chanted “Vicksburg, Vicksburg,” and they flooded the floor as soon as the ball went through the net.

“We’re not going home,” Gaskin said. “We want to go to the Coast.”