Gators to face Pontotoc Thursday at 4 at Oxford High|[02/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

West Lauderdale tried to play zone, hoping to lull the Vicksburg Gators into a perimeter shooting contest in a North State satellite game Tuesday night.

It worked for about six minutes until back-to-back 3-pointers foiled that plan.

Going man-to-man wasn’t much better as standout Gator guard Jonathan Phelps burned his defender for four straight baskets. The end result was a 63-44 win for the Gators, who now advance to the Class 4A North State Tournament on Thursday in Oxford.

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The Gators (27-6) will play Pontotoc Thursday afternoon at 4. West Lauderdale ends its season at 21-12.

Vicksburg was able to cruise despite having post player Mychal Ammons watch much of the game from the bench after picking up two early fouls.

He finished with just four points and six rebounds in little over a quarter and a half.

“We missed Ammons because of foul trouble, so we’ll take this,” VHS coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “Kelsey (Howard) hit two big 3s in the first quarter and then Delmon (Robinson) hit one. When we get one from Delmon, that’s a plus.”

John Qualls picked up the rebounding load for Ammons, who was coming off back-to-back double-doubles in the previous two games in the Division 3-4A Tournament. Qualls pulled down eight of his 12 rebounds in the first half.

“Coach preaches rebounding and we just had to get those backside rebounds,” Qualls said. “Then we had Kelsey, one of our role players, come up and make some big shots. We kicked it out to him and he made them.”

West Lauderdale held a 9-8 lead before Howard knocked down his first trey to put VHS back ahead to stay at 11-9. His second 3-pointer, two minutes deep into the second quarter, ignited an 8-0 Gator run. Phelps, who finished with a game-best 27 points, capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a layup off one of his five steals in the game.

Down five, the Knights went man and Phelps scored on three straight drives while Robinson added one for a 33-19 lead. Two layups by Denzell Erves put VHS up 37-20 at the half.

“I thought we had Vicksburg exactly where we wanted them which was in a zone but we couldn’t make any shots,” Knights coach Durand Clark said.

Five more points from Phelps helped the Gators double up the score at 50-25 with 5:15 left in the third quarter. The Gators then let up, allowing West Lauderdale to make up some ground over the next seven minutes. The Knights got to within 15 after a basket by Justin Ford made it 54-39 with 5:42 to play.