Stirgus-led Vicksburg slams Pearl|[01/09/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2008

PEARL — The Vicksburg Missy Gators had trouble hitting shots and grabbing rebounds in the first half Tuesday. When the time came, though, they had no trouble kicking it into gear and pulling away from Pearl.

The Missy Gators opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run and outscored Pearl 16-2 in the period, blowing open a fairly close game and allowing them to cruise to a comfortable 58-33 victory. Alexus Stirgus scored 17 of her game-high 24 points in the first half, and Vicksburg had a season-low 10 turnovers to go along with 14 steals.

Jackie Thompson scored 14 points to lead Pearl (1-19, 0-5 Division 3-4A), which had 26 turnovers.

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“Unless you’re consistent throughout the game it’s hard to win,” Pearl coach Tracy Hardwell said. “We cut down on turnovers in the second half, and we just didn’t make shots we needed to make.”

Vicksburg struggled to make shots early, and the slump allowed Pearl to stay in the game despite committing nine turnovers and going just 2-for-3 from the field in the first quarter. Vicksburg was 7-for-18 in the opening quarter, but most of the missed shots were gobbled up by Pearl. The Lady Pirates had a 16-10 rebounding edge in the first half.

The Missy Gators (8-11, 2-4) finally started to gain some distance in the second quarter. Stirgus scored 11 points in the period and a late surge gave VHS a 29-19 lead. Vicksburg then opened the second half with its 10-0 run and held Pearl scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes to push the lead to 39-21 with a minute left.

“Defense, defense, defense,” Stirgus said of the spark for the run. “We just started playing better.”

Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog lifted most of her starters in the fourth quarter — only Stirgus played more than a minute or two — but the subs maintained the lead. VHS only had three turnovers in the final period, and its bench contributed 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Kierra Young led Vicksburg’s backups with five points, Princess Palmer had four and Anquannette Harried had five rebounds.

“Everybody got an opportunity to play, and that’s always good,” Hartzog said. “The other girls came in and contributed.”

Vicksburg 59, Pearl 52

The Vicksburg Gators did everything right until the end on Tuesday.

Jonathan Phelps scored 23 points, Mychal Ammons had 10 points and eight rebounds, and the Gators overcame a poor stretch from the foul line down the stretch to hang on for a win over Pearl.

Vicksburg (14-5, 4-2) hit just one of its last seven free throw attempts. The slump allowed Pearl to hack a 14-point deficit entering the fourth quarter down to six with just over three minutes remaining. Pearl then went cold from the field, missing two straight shots that the Gators converted into a pair of baskets to make it 56-45 with 1:43 to go.

Three-pointers by Fabian Burch and Rajereo Lonie helped Pearl get back within five, 57-52, with less than a minute to go, but it couldn’t get any closer. Maurice Williams found Phelps for a press-breaking layup with about 10 seconds to go, and the Gators survived.

In all, Vicksburg was 3-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. That offset an otherwise solid performance in which it shot 51.1 percent from the field and committed only 15 turnovers.

“When you’re the better team you’ve got to make free throws if you’re going to win the close games. We did a lousy job shooting free throws down the stretch,” said VHS coach Dellie Robinson, whose team was coming off an upset of defending Class 4A champion Lanier on Friday.

Burch hit four 3-pointers in the game and led Pearl (7-13, 0-5) with 15 points. Phillip Brown added 10.