Gators ready for showdown with Lanier|[01/03/07]
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008
One of the more anticipated high school basketball games of the season comes to Vicksburg High Friday night when four-time defending state champion Lanier visits.
The Bulldogs of coach Thomas Billups, a former Vicksburg High assistant on the Gators’ 1980 overall state championship team, will take on the Gators (12-5) in a key Division 3-4A contest, following the girls contest which tips off at 6 p.m.
“This is one of the biggest games yet for us,” Vicksburg senior guard Jaybri Williams said after Wednesday’s practice. The Gators spent nearly an hour watching Lanier beat Forest Hill 97-96 in overtime in the finals of last week’s Jackson Public School’s Tournament.
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“We got to see how Lanier likes to play,” Gator forward Maurice Williams said. “Lanier is like us, they like to get out and run. It should be a sellout and a really good game.”
Lanier (14-1, 3-0) hasn’t played at Vicksburg High since 1997. That game was one year after an historic match-up in 1996 in which the Bulldogs beat the Gators in the Class 5A semifinals behind former Mississippi State star Tang Hamilton.
“It’s been 11 years,” VHS coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “We played them here in 1997. We were down because we had lost a lot from the previous year, but it was still a great game, even though Lanier ended up beating us.”
The Lanier game represents a key point in the Gators’ season. They are 2-2 in the division and four of their next five games are on the road.
“That’s right, we’ve got a tough road ahead of us. We know Lanier is good. What we have to do is find a way to win close games. We’ve got to make plays down the stretch,” Robinson said.
The Gators let one slip away Friday when they lost to defending Class 3A champ Forest 41-38 in the finals of the Ranger Roundup in Raymond. Vicksburg missed a couple of late tries to tie the game.
“That’s going to be the big question here on out, how will we finish games. We need someone else other than (Jonathan) Phelps to step and make a play for us,” Robinson said.
Both Jaybri and Maurice Williams agree that the end game is the biggest question for the Gators.
“All the games we’ve lost have been close. We’ve got to get smarter with the ball,” Jaybri Williams said. “We’ve also been weak with our rebounding.”
“We just have to learn to stop people at the end,” Maurice Williams said. “Lanier has two real good scorers in (Terry ) Church and (Marcelis) Hansberg. But they don’t have that prolific scorer like R.L. (Horton) was. You can get a hand in Church’s face and stop his 3’s.”
Horton, now a starting guard at Southern Miss, led Lanier to its last two state titles while averaging over 30 points per game. Church had 25 in the Forest Hill game. Lamar Williams, who has been up and down this year, had a career high 35. The Bulldogs have had four different players score over 25 points in a game this season.
“I don’t know how he does it, but they (players) keep coming up to him,” Robinson said of Billups and his program.