Arkoful’s big night lifts VHS to victory

Published 12:01 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

CLINTON — Both Vicksburg High and Clinton needed a win Friday night, but for a long time neither team seemed especially interested in seizing it.

Clinton wasted an early double-digit lead. Once Vicksburg went ahead, it wasn’t able to keep the momentum going and put the Lady Arrows away.

Since there’s overtime, one team had to win.

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And since Vicksburg had, far and away, the best player on the court, it was able to be that team.

Ama Arkoful scored eight of her game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Missy Gators stay just far enough ahead to hang on for a 53-51 victory. Arkoful also had two key assists down the stretch, giving her a hand in 12 of Vicksburg’s 17 points in the final period.

Arkoful, a freshman point guard, is averaging 21.2 points over her last six games, plus 3.5 steals and 5.3 assists. She finished with four assists and three steals against Clinton (4-13, 0-3 Division 3-6A).

“She took over, and that’s what she’s supposed to do if she’s going to be the leader of the team,” Vicksburg coach Barbara Hartzog said. “The sky’s the limit for her. She’s just got to work hard and stay hungry.”

Arkoful played like she was starving on Friday night.

She scored 12 points in the second quarter to help the Missy Gators (9-9, 2-3) erase an 11-point deficit in the last 2½ minutes of the period. Later, Vicksburg took its first lead of the game, 32-31, when Arkoful found Ruddie Shears for a layup with 2:42 to go in the third quarter.

Aleeshah Smith hit a 3-pointer to give the Missy Gators the lead for good, 46-45, with 2 minutes to play in the game, then Arkoful hit two straight layups to make it 50-47 a minute later.

Clinton’s Alivia Hughes, who had a mini scoring duel with Arkoful down the stretch, hit two layups of her own to keep pace. But Arkoful found Kailin Young for a basket with 44 seconds to go, Vicksburg dribbled most of the final 30 seconds off the clock and Antoinette Mayfield split a pair of free throws with 7.5 seconds remaining to seal it.

“Sometimes you can put the ball up and no matter how hard you do it, it goes in,” Arkoful said. “I was just trying to make it easier for us so we could have breathing room.”

Hughes finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for Clinton. Breanna Foy had five steals for VHS, and Shears had 10 rebounds.