Richardson scores seven in the final minute as Gators slip past WC

Published 11:12 pm Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dentarius Richardson waited almost his entire high school basketball career to hit a game-winning shot. All of a sudden, it’s become his thing.

Richardson scored seven points in the last minute — a go-ahead 3-pointer and two layups — to lead the Vicksburg Gators to a 49-46 victory over archrival Warren Central on Saturday.

Richardson finished with 11 points, and his second batch of late-game heroics in eight days. The senior guard also hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds against Neshoba Central on Jan. 27.

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“It’s a great feeling. I’m glad I did it again, and I want to do it again against Ridgeland,” Richardson said, referring to the Gators’ opponent in the first round of the Division 4-5A tournament next week.

Vicksburg (17-6) snapped a two-game losing streak to Warren Central (10-12), and won for just the second time in their past six meetings. More importantly, the Gators won their eighth consecutive game overall and remained hot heading into the final week of the regular season and the Division 4-5A tournament.

“I have them trying to concentrate on district. Of course we want to win this game, of course we have a tough Brandon team on Tuesday and a tough Brookhaven team on Thursday. But the whole thing is trying to beat Ridgeland the first round of the district tournament,” Vicksburg interim coach Kelvin Carter said. “We want to win along the way, but we want to get better and we want to grow. That’s something Richardson has been doing since day one.”

Five of the past six meetings between Vicksburg and Warren Central have been decided by three points or less, including Saturday’s. The biggest lead for either team was Vicksburg’s six-point advantage midway through the third quarter, and Warren Central wiped that out with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Jalen Glass and Jacques Jones to tie it at 29.

The teams traded the lead throughout the fourth quarter, with Shaun Walton drilling a 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining to give the Vikings their last lead at 43-41. After that, they imploded.

Warren Central committed two turnovers and missed a shot on three consecutive possessions down the stretch. Its only points after Walton’s 3 came on another 3-ppinter by Walt Hopson with 2.5 seconds to go.

“We got there in the last minute or so and we hit the panic button,” Warren Central coach Bruce Robinson said. “We got the lead and were holding the ball, they’re clearly about to foul us, we’ve got the ball in our best free throw shooter’s hand, and we panicked with it. We got it to an inexperienced kid, and of course he panicked with it. And we had two timeouts left, so I might have panicked myself. We didn’t handle that last minute or two well enough.”

Richardson, who is quickly becoming accustomed to succeeding in clutch situations, did not panic. He hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 55 seconds left, got open along the baseline for an easy layup at the 25-second mark, and added one last layup on a fast break with 11.4 seconds to go to give the Gators a 48-43 lead.

“He’s stepped up big. He’s been the senior that we needed him to be,” Carter said. “He’s been a part of the system for three or four years, and he’s getting his just due right now. He’s relaxed, he’s confident, he’s not stressed out, and he’s just playing his heart out.”

Kirk Parker hit one of two free throws after Hopson’s 3-pointer made it a one-possession game, but WC was unable to get a long heave off before the buzzer.

Parker finished with just five points, but grabbed 11 rebounds and had four assists. Joe Thomas and Kardell English scored eight points apiece for the Gators.

Glass led Warren Central with 11 points, Walton had eight and Jones seven.
Warren Central, which scored a big division victory over Greenville on Friday night, has not won back-to-back games since early December.

“It’s the same old song. You play close ballgames, and we still have not quite learned how to finish close ballgames,” Robinson said. “I think we’re playing our best ball here lately, but today we were a little selfish. Sometimes that’s what a rivalry does to you. But we certainly should have won that ballgame.”

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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