Howard leads Gators to victory|Prep basketball

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

FLOWOOD — For all but a few minutes of the fourth quarter Tuesday night, the Vicksburg Gators seemed out of sync offensively.

Those few minutes, though, were all they needed.

Kelsey Howard hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Gators to a 61-53 win over Ridgeland in the second round of the Northwest Rankin Holiday Tournament.

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Tonight, 8:30 p.m. – Brandon vs. Vicksburg, NW Rankin tournament championship

“The kid can play,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “I tell everybody he’s the best-kept secret in Mississippi. Whoever signs him is going to get a great player.”

Mychal Ammons added 16 points and six rebounds for Vicksburg (13-2), which advanced to the championship game against Brandon tonight at 8:30. LeAntwan Luckett scored 17 points and Donovan Ross had 10 points and eight rebounds for Ridgeland (12-4), which faces Terry in the third-place game at 2:30 p.m.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but that’s what we came here to do is get better,” Robinson said.

The Gators fell behind by 11 points in the opening minutes against Ridgeland and seemed to be playing catch-up all night. They rallied within a point at halftime and briefly took the lead at the start of the third quarter, but never put together a big run.

That changed when Howard got going and gave the Gators the space they needed. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers with five minutes left in the game, then another about two minutes later.

“It gave us momentum,” said Howard, who went 5-for-9 from 3-point range for the game.

The big shots left Vicksburg with a 55-51 lead with 2:24 to play, and it was able to run most of the remaining time off the clock without drawing a foul from Ridgeland.

“We were only down five points. We still had enough time to do what we wanted to do,” Ridgeland coach Rod Davidson said. “We got a blocked shot and just didn’t get the offensive rebound.”

Howard’s teammates sealed the deal in the final minute. Ammons drove the lane for a layup, and with 25 seconds left Chris Miller followed a miss with a two-handed dunk to put the Gators ahead 59-51. Ridgeland ran 15 seconds more off the clock before Jamal Hester hit a short baby hook in the lane, and Ammons hit two more free throws to finish it off.

“At the end, they executed and we didn’t. We didn’t execute for a full four quarters,” Davidson said.

(G) VHS 53, Ridgeland 29

Donyeah Mayfield scored 17 points, Alexus Stirgus had 15, and Vicksburg (9-5) routed Ridgeland in the second round of the Northwest Rankin Holiday Tournament.

The Missy Gators jumped out to a 24-9 lead at halftime and kept up the strong defense in the second half. Ridgeland scored 11 points in the third quarter, the only one in which it cracked double digits. No Ridgeland player scored more than six points.

Vicksburg advanced to the third-place game today at 4 p.m. against Morton.


Contact Ernest Bowker at