Free throws doom VHS in tough loss

Published 11:11 pm Friday, January 30, 2015

PEARL — If she could, Vicksburg High coach Barbara Hartzog might be willing to walk over to the scorer’s table and throw down a crisp $100 bill in exchange for one good night at the foul line for her team.

Even if the rules allowed it, though, it probably wouldn’t work. No matter where they go, or what they seem to do, the Missy Gators can’t buy a free throw.

They missed 17 times from the foul line Friday night against Pearl, each one a precious point they’d never be able to get back. When they left the court on the wrong end of a 70-61 decision it didn’t take Hartzog long to pinpoint the cause.

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“Free throws,” she said, without prompting but with the resignation and frustration of a woman at her wit’s end. “Just free throws. Lord have mercy. If we would have just made half of them. We had more baskets than them. It was the free throws.”

The Missy Gators went 10-for-27 from the line to drop their season percentage to 42.8. The loss was their seventh in a row, and four of those have come by nine points or less. In those four close games, the Missy Gators are a combined 31-for-85 (36.5 percent) at the line. A good free throw shooting team is usually between 60 and 70 percent.

“We’d have won so many games if we just hit our free throws,” Hartzog said dejectedly.

The Missy Gators aren’t shooting much better from the field for the season — just 31.3 percent as a team — but had an unusually good night on Friday. They hit 24 of 56 shots (42.8 percent) and rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.

Pearl was able to stay a step ahead, however, and never lost the lead. Adrianna Horne finished with 23 points to lead the Lady Pirates (15-6, 4-1 Division 4-5A), while Caylyn Tate and Felicia McCloud scored nine apiece.

Vicksburg’s Karry Callahan sat out most of the third quarter with foul trouble, but still had 21 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and five assists. Keiyana Gaskin added 18 points and seven rebounds, and Ruddie Shears had 10 points and five rebounds.

The monthlong losing streak has locked the Missy Gators (10-11, 0-5) in as the No. 4 seed for the division tournament that begins Feb. 17 on their home floor. They’ll face either Pearl or Callaway in the first round.

Despite the struggles, Hartzog said she remains optimistic that her team can put together a strong finish. Vicksburg, after all, faced many of the same problems last season yet knocked off top-seeded Lanier in the division tournament and gave eventual state runner-up Canton a tough game in the Class 5A satellite round.

“We’ve got two weeks to get it. Maybe it’ll come,” Hartzog said. “We know where we stand. There’s things we’ve got to clean up and hope it falls our way one time. We’re in the same place we were last year.”

(B) Pearl 56, Vicksburg 49

Vicksburg’s rough ride through the Division 4-5A schedule continued Friday, as Pearl (20-4, 3-2) held off the Gators (10-9, 0-5).

Vicksburg has lost seven of its last eight games — including all five division games — and is locked in as the No. 4 seed for the division tournament. The Gators will host Lanier on Tuesday

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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