Gators headed to Big House
Published 12:21 am Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Vicksburg Gators are going back to the Big House.
LaDerrie Ward hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the second overtime to give the Gators the lead for good, and they hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 34 seconds to beat Center Hill 78-74 in a Class 5A North State semifinal turned instant classic Friday night.
The victory sends the Gators (18-7) into tonight’s North State championship game against Callaway, which will be played at West Point High School, and also clinched a spot in the Class 5A state tournament in Jackson. The Gators will play a team from the South half of the bracket on March 10 at the Mississippi Coliseum — also known as “The Big House” — at a time to be determined by the outcome of tonight’s championship game.
It’s Vicksburg’s first trip to the state tournament since it reached the Class 6A championship game in 2011.
Vicksburg and Center Hill finished regulation tied at 56, and it wasn’t until the final moments of the second overtime that the Gators finally got the upper hand.
With less than two minutes to go, De’Angelo Richardson drove and dished out to the right wing to an open Ward, who knocked down the 3-pointer to give the Gators a 71-68 lead. They never trailed again. They scored their last seven points from the foul line to lock down the win. The last two free throws came via a technical foul when Center Hill (25-7) called a timeout it didn’t have with 1.1 seconds left.
Ward finished with 10 points, and was one of five Gators to score in double figures. Richardson led the team with 23 points, De’Vonta Brisco scored 12, Justin Selvy had 11, and Kris Walker 10.
C.J. Chatman led Center Hill with 27 points and Job Vernor had 23.
Adam Minichino of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.