Ammons has big day vs. ’Goula

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

JACKSON — One of Vicksburg High’s biggest strengths this season has been its role players. There’s a guy who shoots 3s. A defensive stopper. A rebounder or two.

And, when the situation calls for it, a hero. The guy everyone looks to when things get dicey, when the season is on the line and there’s nowhere else to turn.

That guy is Mychal Ammons, and on Wednesday, he played his part to perfection.

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Ammons scored nine straight points to rally the Gators from a seven-point deficit in the final 2 ½ minutes. He added four more in overtime and finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots as Vicksburg beat Pascagoula 62-51 in the Class 6A semifinals.

The victory sent the Gators into the state finals for the first time since 2003. They’ll play Meridian, a 72-43 winner over Starkville in Wednesday’s other semifinal, on Saturday night at 8:30 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

“Mike has been doing this for years,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “Certainly, he’s our leader and our go-to guy. He’s a beast. The kid can do it all. We’re just glad to have him on our side.”

For most of Wednesday’s semifinal, however, the South Alabama signee couldn’t do much. Pascagoula held him to eight points and three rebounds in the first half and took a 25-19 lead into the halftime break.

The Panthers consistently denied the 6-foot-6 Ammons the ball in the low post, where he’s most effective, and forced him to the outside. Although Ammons is a decent 3-point shooter, he was off the mark for much of the day. He was 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

The one he made, though, was a lightning bolt that sparked one of the most memorable runs in school history.

Ammons hit a basket, then the 3-pointer from the top of the arc to pull the Gators within a basket, 48-46.

“The 3 I made really gave us some momentum,” Ammons said. “I was trying to get them to step out on me, and make it easier to go around. They gave me the 3 when we needed it, and I took it.”

After a Pascagoula timeout, Ammons stole the lazy inbounds pass near the foul line and went in for a layup to tie the game. For an encore he dropped in a pair of free throws with 24.4 seconds to go to give VHS a 50-48 lead.

“I think it was just a will to win,” Ammons said of the run. “We came too far to lose, so I was going to leave it all on the floor.”

Pascagoula managed to tie it in the final seconds of regulation, but the overtime was all Gators. Ammons threw down his second dunk of the game with 2½ minutes to play to give them a 55-50 lead, then added a couple of free throws down the stretch as the Gators pulled away.

Ammons also went 9-for-11 at the foul line, and was 7-for-7 during regulation. When the show was over, even Pascagoula coach Keith Robinson had to tip his cap.

“He’s a great player. We knew he was a great player and their go-to guy,” Robinson said. “I just think he stepped his game up. We defended him well, our help was good, we did everything we set out to do. But great players make great plays.”