Smothers’ late free throw lifts Vikings over rival Vicksburg

Published 10:22 pm Saturday, January 12, 2019

Daniel Smothers stood at the free throw line, with the game at stake and 5.2 seconds left on the clock.

In his left ear, 500 people screamed in an effort to get him to fail. In his right ear, 500 people screamed in the hopes he would succeed.

Smothers appeased both sides of the gym, but sent the right side home a lot happier.

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Smothers split his two free throws, making the second to give Warren Central the lead. He then made a key play on defense to get the final stop that allowed the Vikings to leave with a come-from-behind 39-38 victory over archrival Vicksburg High on Saturday afternoon.

“I felt like by me missing a free throw that it was hurting the team. But I was glad I hit the second one. That crowd was hollering,” said Smothers, who finished with five points. “I just had to block everybody out and make the shot.”

Seven Warren Central players scored a point, but none were in double figures. Jabari Bowman finished with a team-high nine, Jalen Glass had eight and P.J. Mims seven.

It was a stat line befitting a game won with defense. Warren Central (10-9) trailed by 10 points at halftime, then held the Gators to 13 points total in the second half. The Vikings used a 13-2 run in the third quarter to wipe out the deficit and then came out on top at the end of a back-and-forth final period.

“It helps us a whole lot,” Warren Central coach Bruce Robinson said. “In the beginning of the year, when we had that four-game losing streak, they were close games. That 10-point lead, in the beginning of the year we would have folded. It’s good to gut it out. We as a coaching staff have to coach in tight games to know what it takes to win them, and our folks have to play in them.”

With the game tied at 38, Warren Central held for the final shot. Smothers drove into the lane as the clock ticked down, was fouled and went to the line. He missed the first of two free throws, but hit the second to give the Vikings a one-point lead.

“He didn’t play a whole lot last year, and when he played he wasn’t playing point guard. He’s been developing as a pretty good point guard, but he’s doing a pretty good job. That’s why we’re being successful now, is because he’s bought in about 75 or 80 percent of what we’re doing,” Robinson said of the junior Smothers.

Vicksburg (10-7) still had a chance to win it. Point guard Jermiyah Brown took the ball up the floor and tried to shoot a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. He was surrounded by three WC defenders — one of them was Smothers — got caught in the air, and landed without shooting or getting fouled for a traveling call with 1.6 seconds left.

Warren Central wasn’t able to cleanly inbound the ball, but the game ended in a tie up on the floor as time expired.

Brown’s traveling call was Vicksburg’s second turnover in the final minute of the game. Peytin Jackson was called for an offensive foul with 35.9 seconds to go, negating a made basket that would have given the Gators the lead.

“We had 27 points at the half and we were just stagnant. We couldn’t throw the ball in the hole to save our lives,” Vicksburg coach Kelvin Carter said. “It’s very disappointing, especially when you’re in a position to win and we’re trying to grow as a team and be smart. We made some bad decisions as a team down the stretch.”

Jackson finished with eight points for the Gators, and Devan Kiner led the team with 11. The Gators, however, posted a season-low point total and had a sour ending to an otherwise great week in which they picked up two big region victories over Callaway and Ridgeland.

They’ll go on the road to play Callaway again on Friday night.

“This is a rivalry game and we’d really love to win it, but district is where it’s at. We’re got to go to Callaway on Friday night,” Carter said. “These games are just rivalry games. Of course you want to win them and feel bad when you don’t, but it’s back to the drawing board. We’re 2-0 in district and that right there is what we’re hanging our hats on.”

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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