Vicksburg falls 65-43 to Canton

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, February 24, 2018

CANTON — The stage was bigger. The crowd was louder. The stakes were higher, even the opponents were bigger, but nonetheless, the Vicksburg Gators boys basketball team showed up ready to fight.

Under the bright lights and the pressure of a win or go home playoff game, the Gators fell 65-43 to the Canton Tigers Saturday, but the final score doesn’t truly show how hard Vicksburg played in the loss.

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It’s been a wild season for the Gators, but Saturday night marked its close as they fell in the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs. Vicksburg finished the season at 13-17, while Canton stands at 28-3.

The game went back and forth in the first half.

Vicksburg senior Kamari English nailed a pull-up 3-pointer to give the Gators a 10-5 lead, then Gregory Jenkins hit a free throw to put the lead at 11-5 to close out a low scoring first quarter.

The second quarter continued the back and forth action until the game was tied at 15. Junior Jermiyah Brown used a savvy fake handoff to create enough space for a pull-up jumper, and then Dequan Phillips hit two free throws to give the Gators a 19-15 lead.

It was then, however, that Canton senior Damerius Wash started to take over the game burying two deep 3-pointers for the Tigers before blocking a Gator layup attempt. Canton still held just a 24-21 lead at the half.

In the second half, things slipped away from the Gators. The Tigers started burying deep threes, some of which were heavily contested, but their main advantage came down to their size and athleticism.

Wash turned the second half into his personal dunk contest, throwing down six emphatic slams as the Tigers ran away with the game.

Wash lead all scorers with 29 points on the day, while Darius Johnson lead the Gators with 11 points and Kedarrion Parson added 9.

“The stronger team just prevailed tonight, I think my guys have it their all, we basically let the chips fall where they may, and we just came up a little short,” Vicksburg coach Kevin Carter said.

The Gators lost a lost of talent in their last graduating class, so for them to even make it this far was quite an accomplishment. Vicksburg’s season seemed to be doomed at the beginning of the season, starting off 5-13, but a miraculous turnaround in the second half of the season saw them going 8-3, including a one point come back victory over Lake Cormorant in round one of the playoffs.

This loss might sting, but Carter thinks that the future of the Gators program looks bright.

“There’s no doubt about it, I’m proud,” Carter said.

“I would love to be in this position next year, and advance a little bit farther. I think they showed a lot of resilience through the season, we had a lot of tough games. Out of the 17 losses we had, nine of the teams were in the top 25. So I really feel good about our chances moving forward.”