Published 11:30 am Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Vicksburg advances to Class 5A championship game Friday against Callaway
JACKSON — A mild murmur droned through the Mississippi Coliseum Monday. The fans in the midday crowd mostly sat on their hands while the Vicksburg Gators marched endlessly to the free throw line to pad their already comfortable lead.
It was slow. It was boring. And, for the Gators, it was glorious.
Vicksburg earned a spot in the boys Class 5A championship game with a convincing 82-67 win over Pascagoula in the semifinals on Monday. De’Angelo Richardson scored 28 points, and the Gators used a big second-quarter run and sharp free throw shooting to earn their second trip to the state finals in four seasons.
“It’s good to finally make it here. Now we’ve just got to finish it,” Richardson said. “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet as much as it should have. But I know it’s a real big moment for us.”
The Gators (19-8) will take on nemesis Callaway (30-1) in the championship game Friday at 8 p.m. at the Coliseum.
Callaway beat Laurel 79-75 in overtime in the other semifinal Monday night, and has beaten Vicksburg four times already this season. After two close games in the regular season, Callaway beat VHS by 25 points in the Division 4-5A tournament final and 19 in the North State title game.
The Chargers are a prohibitive favorite to win their third consecutive state title, but Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson was happy to get one more chance to take down the giant.
“I told my kids at the beginning of the season, any time we can play Callaway that’s a plus for us because we know chances are it’s going to be in the championship round. If we’re playing them, we’re in the championship round again,” Robinson said. “We said we’re going to play them five times. All we need to do is win one out of five, and I think the one coming up might be ours.”
To win its first state championship since 2003, Vicksburg could use another performance like it had Monday.
The Gators hit 17 of their first 18 free throw attempts and finished 32-for-38 from the line. Richardson hit 13 of 14, while Edward Davis made 10 of 12 to finish with 14 points. Fifteen of Vicksburg’s 26 points in the fourth quarter came from the free throw line as Pascagoula entered desperation mode.
“All the free throw shooting he makes us do in practice finally paid off. We spend at least 15 minutes on free throws every day, so I see it paid off,” Richardson said.
Pascagoula trailed most of the game, and by double digits for the entire second half. Sparked by its reserves, Vicksburg used a 12-0 run late in the second quarter to go up 39-25 at halftime.
Senior guard La’Darrie Ward got things started with a steal and assist to Davis for a fast break basket, followed by a 3-pointer to make it 34-25 with 2:07 remaining. Junior forward Justin Selvy then hit a 3-pointer and Richardson added a basket to give the Gators a 14-point cushion going into the locker room.
They stretched the lead to as many as 20 points midway through the fourth quarter and never let Pascagoula get back within single digits.
Selvy finished with 11 points and five rebounds, and De’Vonta Brisco had 13 points. Davis had six rebounds, three steals and three assists to go along with his 14 points.
“It’s just a credit to Vicksburg and Coach Robinson, and those guards they’ve got. They played well. All credit goes to them. When we were trying to close that lead, they responded with an 8-0 run that just kind of put it out of reach,” Pascagoula coach Ronald Norman said.
LaDatren Deas scored a game-high 30 points and Bobby Nettles scored 11 for Pascagoula (24-7), which made yet another bittersweet ride home from Jackson to the Coast.
It was the fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament for the Panthers. They’ve yet to advance beyond the semifinals. While disappointed with the loss, Norman was proud of this year’s team and what the program has accomplished since 2011.
“At the end of the day, there’s going to be one team happy in 5A this year. Only one. It doesn’t matter if we’d have won tonight and lost Friday, there still was only going to be one winner,” Norman said. “There were four teams practicing in 5A as of last week, and now it’s going to be two. We were part of the four. The only way you can win a state championship is to get to Jackson. If we keep getting here, it just might happen. So we still like getting here.”