Gators KO top-ranked Lanier|[01/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2008

Calling it his best win since winning the 2003 Class 5A State Championship, Dellie C. Robinson watched his Vicksburg Gators knock off No. 1 ranked and four-time defending Class 4A champion Lanier 79-76 before a standing room only crowd at VHS Friday night.

Gator senior guard Jonathan Phelps, the reigning Vicksburg Post Player of the Year, scored a game-best 34 points, while forward Mychal Ammons showed why he may be one of the best freshmen in the nation by sinking four free throws in the final 17 seconds to subdue Mississippi’s top basketball program.

“This was the biggest win, probably, since 2003 when we beat (Travis) Outlaw and Starkville High for the 5A championship,” a joyous Robinson said afterward. “We finally got some kids other than Phelps to make some plays. They made something happen.”

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But Phelps was still special.

Lanier (14-2, 3-1 Division 3-4A) did not have an answer for him and his elevated left-handed jumper.

“The shot’s been there, but tonight I made sure it was on,” Phelps said of his sweet, 12-foot, rising jumper which he hit on nine of his 13 field goals.

“I guess when the lights are on, I show up. With Lanier, I had to bring my ‘A’ game. But we had some other guys step up. Darius Williams made a couple of big free throws and Mychal made some big ones late,” Phelps said. “It feels good to beat a team like Lanier, someone who’s won four straight championships. But we also know we’ll have to see them again. It’s going to be a tough one at Lanier.”

The big question for the Gators (13-5, 3-2) was whether they could answer Lanier’s prowess for getting to the free throw line and making shots. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs made eight in a row to keep pressure on the Gators, who trailed only once at 5-4 early in the first quarter.

Phelps’ last jumper with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left gave VHS a 69-65 lead. Terry Church answered with two of his eight made free throws in the fourth quarter to cut it back to two. The lead bounced between two and four points until Lanier finally missed a free throw with 1:27 left.

Phelps countered by making two of his own with 50.1 seconds left for a 73-68 lead. Church dropped in two more free throws and then the Bulldogs fouled Delmon Robinson before the ball could be inbounded. Robinson missed both shots, opening the door for Lanier to tie the game with a 3-pointer.

“That was a coach’s mistake, Delmon shouldn’t have been out there on offense. He and (Rodney) Beacham are two of our best defenders, but we needed to have our better free throw guys out there. We had them out there after that,” Coach Robinson said.

Church got back to the line and made his last two free throws to make it 73-72 with 35.1 seconds left. A turnover gave Lanier a chance at the lead, but it missed two short shots in the lane and Darius Williams came up with a key loose ball. He was fouled with 27.6 seconds left and made both shots for a 75-72 lead.

Lanier coach Thomas Billups wanted his team to go for a 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds to go, but the Bulldogs instead went back inside, getting a putback from Kenyatta Anderson to make it 75-74.

Ammons answered for the Gators by making both of his free shots with 17.1 left. Thurley Love got Lanier’s final points on a putback with two seconds left. A melee for the ball broke out and time ran down, but the Gators never inbounded the ball and Lanier was out of timeouts.

The officials finally decided to let Vicksburg inbound with 0.9 seconds left. The ball went to Ammons and he was fouled again. He made two more to cap his 17-point night, which included a 5-of-6 effort from the line. The teams combined to shoot 71 free throws.

Church led Lanier with 25 points. He made 15-of-19 from the line. Lanier shot 42 free throws, and made 30. Anderson ended with 16 points.

(G) Lanier 63, VHS 57

Lanier (7-8, 3-1) took a 17-point lead late in the third quarter and then withheld a late Missy Gator push that got the lead down to four with 1:40 to play. The Missy Gators fell to 7-11 overall and 1-4 in Division 3-4A with the loss.

Layups by De’Ara Travis and Kenya Anderson in the final 1:27 ended the rally. Travis finished with a game-best 30 points.

Donyeah Mayfield keyed Vicksburg’s comeback with six fourth-quarter points and she ended with 14 points. Taylor Ammons also had 14 and Alexus Stirgus had 11.