Gators beat Titans in Parker’s return

Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 9, 2016

No. 23 is back for the Vicksburg Gators.

Forward Kirk Parker, who missed nine games with an elbow injury, made his return to the court by scoring 12 points and sealing a 30-28 win over Ridgeland on Friday night with a key block in the final minute.

Vicksburg (6-7, 1-0 Division 4-5A) snapped a three-game losing streak by winning its division opener. Ridgeland (12-3, 0-1) had its six-game winning streak come to an end.

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“Great win for us,” Gators coach Dellie C. Robinson said. “One of the biggest of the season so far.”

Kenneth Murphy added another nine points in the victory and scored five of the Gators’ seven points in the second quarter.

The Titans outscored the Gators 12-6 in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game. Jonah Simpson led the comeback by scoring four of his eight points in the fourth quarter and getting two-point contributions from Trae Thompson, Clay Weatherspoon, Daveon Goodloe and Darius Kent, who scored a team-high 12 points.

“I knew we turned the ball over and took some bad shots,” Robinson said. “I was hoping we would’ve been a little more paient, get the ball inside to Kirk and hoping he’d make one sooner or later.”

Parker cemented the victory with a block on a forced layup in the paint from Ridgeland with 46 seconds remaining in the game.

Robinson expressed having the presence of Parker back with a delighted burst of emotion and called it “a blessing.”

“We post him up and he’s going to draw double teams, and once the other kids get settled back working with him and taking better shots and know when to take them we can pull on that,” Robinson said. “But certainly Kirk is a big blessing to have that big body to rebound and block shots.”

The Gators won their first three games before Parker was sidelined in November. Robinson expected his star forward to be rusty in his first game back, but still knew he would be a difference maker.

When the season started, Raheam Moore was still suited up for the Gators’ football team. When Moore did show up on the basketball court, Parker had suffered his second elbow injury of the school year. Parker dislocated his other elbow in August while playing football.

Moore, meanwhile, served as the Gators’ primary option in the post and did his job well.

Tonight was the first time the Gators’ big men played together and Robinson got a glimpse of what he always knew would be the case if the duo played together.

“I think they’re working well together and I’m just hoping they can improve working together. They’re just getting back together and Kirk’s first practice was after New Year’s,” Robinson said.

Moore’s four points were a product of adjusting to having the team’s leading scorer back on the floor.

“As the year goes down and they get to working together and learning each other I think they can be a force to be reckoned with,” Robinson said.

While winning its first division game of the season gives Vicksburg a confidence boost, it will play crosstown rival Warren Central less than 24 hours later in their second meeting this season. The teams tip off today at about 2:30 p.m. at Warren Central.

“I hope we don’t get too high off this game and come out flat tomorrow. This was the biggest game out of the two. Warren Central is our rival, but Warren Central is not a district game and the district more important than rival,” Robinson said.

(G) Ridgeland 70, Vicksburg 48

The Vicksburg Missy Gators didn’t look like their normal, high-energy, board-crashing selves when they dropped their game against Ridgeland. They committed simple mistakes leading to 15 turnovers, didn’t shoot well, air-balled a handful of 3s and gave up easy layups.

Kayla Simmons gave the Missy Gators problems in the paint as she put up 11 points.

Vicksburg’s Karry Callahan had 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, but was held scoreless in the first quarter. Keiyana Gaskin suffered a similar fate in the second quarter but finished with 12 points.

It was a tale of two halves as the Missy Gators found their reputation during the halftime break. While they finished with 36 rebounds, 12 steals and four blocks, the damage was done well before the final buzzer.

Ridgeland had a 22-3 run to end the first quarter and led 39-9 heading into the half.

“We got off to a bad start, we dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get back up. After halftime we got ourselves together and we tried,” Callahan said. “We got uncomfortable getting in the man-to-man but we did better than we thought.”

Callahan said coach Barbara Hartzog told the Missy Gators to play as a team and that they weren’t quite out of the game.

“She just told us we weren’t out of it and believe it can always flip,” Callahan said. “Just like they had us we can get them back just like that.”

The Missy Gators outscored Ridgeland 24-16 in the third quarter.

The resurgence began with 3-point specialist Micha Williams hitting one from behind the arc. She scored all eight of her points that quarter. Callahan added another 10 points in the third.

“The first half they outscored us,” Callahan said. “We didn’t have any offense at all. But the second half we came out strong, we were going to the free-throw line and it worked well for us. It wasn’t enough but next time we’ll know what to do.”