Vicksburg advances to semifinals|Prep basketball playoffs

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

JACKSON — While Vicksburg has struggled on the offensive end, its defensive effort over the past two weeks has been stout. Thursday night at the Class 4A North State Tournament, the Gators’ defense came up big again, shutting down run-minded Noxubee County 72-56.

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Today, 6 p.m. – Vicksburg at Callaway

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Senior center Denzell Erves had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks as Vicksburg advanced to tonight’s semifinals against tournament host Callaway. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.

Callaway, the Division 3-4A champion, has already beaten the Gators twice this season. No matter tonight’s outcome, Vicksburg (21-9) will have a chance to advance to the Class 4A state tournament on Saturday. The top three teams from the North and South State tournaments move on.

Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said his team has bought into playing a good brand of man-to-man defense.

“About a month ago, we were hurting teams with our match-up zone and then they started to figure that one out, so we went back to our man-to-man and it’s worked out well. We did a real good job in it,” Robinson said.

Over the first 11 minutes of Thursday’s game, Noxubee County (14-13) totaled 28 points as point guard Teddy Young led a fast-break attack which featured the long-range shooting of Mississippi State signee Shaunessy Smith. Smith’s 30-foot 3-pointer gave Noxubee a 19-14 lead a minute into the second quarter. He added two free throws a couple of minutes later to give the Tigers a 28-25 lead. Then the Gators’ defense took over.

Noxubee missed its next seven shots and Vicksburg converted the opportunities into scores. Erves made four baskets in the stretch. Two were soft jumpers from 10 feet and two others were easy layups. All the shots came off feeds from sophomore Mychal Ammons, who made the pinpoint pass after drawing the Noxubee defense to him.

“No doubt about it, we were shooting too many threes at the start, but then we started to get the ball to Mike and Denzell. We got the ball inside and some good things happened. And then on defense, we double-teamed Shaunessy and we backed down their other good shooter,” Robinson said.

Smith, who finished with a game-high 20 points, did not score another basket until the start of the fourth quarter. By then Vicksburg was enjoying a 14-point lead.

It got the lead after taking a 33-28 spread into halftime. The third quarter saw Ammons cut up the Tigers off the block. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the quarter.

Defensively, Vicksburg held the Tigers to just two made field goals in 12 tries while also forcing seven turnovers in the third quarter.

“Shaunessy is a tough player, but he can’t do it by himself,” Ammons said. “He didn’t get the win, we did.”

Smith tried to lead a comeback by taking the ball into the lane. He made his last two baskets of the game and completed a perfect 10-for-10 effort from the free throw line.

Smith’s soft touch at the line, however, could not make up any ground because the Gators were scoring on their end with baskets from Kelsey Howard and two free throws each from Dominique Brown and Ammons. Smith later fouled out with 3:31 left.

Vicksburg made nine free throws in the final 2:42 to keep the lead in double digits. Darius Williams made a pair with 1:07 left and Howard’s three-point play with 51 seconds left sealed the game.

Howard led the Gators with 19 points while Ammons added eight rebounds and five assists.


Contact Jeff Byrd at