Gators edge Clinton in inaugural River City Challenge

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2017

It’s still very early in the high school basketball season, which means the Vicksburg Gators are still forging an identity that’ll likely change by the time the playoffs roll around in February.

That’d be fine by head coach Kelvin Carter. The one the Gators have right now tends to make things a little too interesting.

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The Gators beat Clinton 69-63 Monday in the inaugural River City Challenge at Warren Central. They let a nine-point lead dwindle to one in the fourth quarter, then had to overcome a technical foul, some mediocre free throw shooting and a couple of other mental mistakes to hang one for the victory.

Vicksburg is 3-2 heading into the Thanksgiving break, but four of its first five games have been decided by six points or less. Three of the five have been decided by three points or less.

“We have eight juniors, but only three have experience so we have to go through some stuff. Every game we’ve played has been just like that. It’s come down to the wire. We make mental mistakes down the stretch. So we’re definitely going back to the drawing board to work on it daily,” Carter said. “I’m hoping these mistakes that we’re making now, by the time district comes we’re used to it and won’t make those mistakes.”

Darius Johnson led the Gators with 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, while Tyron Moore and Ke’Darrion Parson scored nine points apiece. Jeremiyah Brown had 10 points.

Kolby Moore led Clinton (1-3) with 16 points, and Xyshan Jenkins scored eight.

Vicksburg led 58-49 with six minutes to go, but Clinton got within a single point with a 7-0 run late in the game. Jenkins’ jumper cut it to 64-63 with 1:05 remaining.

The Gators, however, were finally able to put the game away with a couple of stops and some clutch free throw shooting by Parson. The senior guard hit three free throws in the last two minutes to help put the game away. Vicksburg scored the last five points of the game, all at the foul line.

“Parson’s leadership has really took us over the hump the last three games,” Carter said. “He’s been at that free throw line down the stretch. He might miss one or two, but when it counts he will knock them down. He’s really been coming up big in the last minute or two minutes of a game.”

Parson is one of only three seniors on Vicksburg’s roster, which speaks to the relative youth and inexperience of the team. There are nine juniors as well, but only a handful of those have played. Because of that, everyone involved is aware that they need to be patient while the team rounds into form.

“Us seniors are still trying to get them to understand the game. We have to hold as a team. It’s always like that, but in the end we come out better than we were before. It’s a process,” Johnson said.

Carter echoed those thoughts. He said he likes the Gators’ potential, it’s just the process of unlocking it that will take time and effort.

“I feel great about this team,” Carter said. “I keep telling them that we have a golden opportunity, because we have a lot of guys that are very athletic. We have some decent shooters. We just have to get chemistry. We just have to grow as a group.”

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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