Gators surge past Greenville in MLK Classic

Published 7:39 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

JACKSON — The Vicksburg Gators struggled to make free throws and didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, either.

Instead, they relied on defense, hustle and grit to get the job done.
Ty’Ron Moore scored 16 points — 11 in the second half — and Devan Kiner added 15 as the Gators beat Greenville 61-49 in the MLK Classic Monday at Lanier High School.

Vicksburg used a surge late in the third quarter to wrestle the lead away from the Hornets, and outscored them 28-10 over the last 12 minutes of the game. That offset a 13-for-26 effort at the free throw line.

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“Free throws kind of hurt us, but we were real excited. We buckled down and played a little defense, and that’s the signature,” Vicksburg coach Kelvin Carter said. “These good teams, they play good defense. You’d better stop somebody. We’ve got multiple ways we can score, but we’ve got to get better at playing defense.”

The Gators (12-8) won their second game in a row during a long holiday weekend. It was their third game in four days, and they have another Tuesday night at home against Germantown at 6 p.m.

Carter said he was trying to manage fatigue by working more players into the rotation and resting starters where he could. None of the starters played in a 78-47 win over South Delta on Saturday, and eight players scored a point in both that game and Monday’s victory.

In addition to Moore and Kiner, Darius Johnson finished in double figures against Greenville with 11 points. It was Johnson’s highest point total since he scored 13 against Northwest Rankin on Dec. 4.

“We’re just trying to play multiple guys. I played everybody tonight, all 13 guys on the bench,” Carter said. “I didn’t play any starters on Saturday. I felt like the guys who hadn’t been playing were good enough to play against South Delta, and that really helped a lot. When we’re playing four games in five days, that’s a stretch.”

For most of Monday’s game, it looked like it might come down to the wire. Greenville used a 13-3 run in the second quarter to take a seven-point lead — the biggest by either team until the final minute of the game — and held it until the final minute of the third quarter.

Shermichael Young scored 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter for Greenville (13-11), and Jyreone Merrill had 10 of his 12 in the second half.

After Justin Wright hit a 3-pointer to put Greenville ahead 39-33 with 3:50 left in the third, Vicksburg took over. A putback layup by Johnson with 45 seconds left gave the Gators a 42-41 lead, and they never trailed again.

Moore banked in a 3-pointer with 4:39 left in the game to make it 49-45 and trigger a game-ending 15-4 run. The Gators also scored the last eight points of the game.

Vicksburg was only 6-for-12 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, but hit the ones that mattered at the end. Kiner and Peytin Jackson hit two apiece in the final minute, sandwiched around a Moore layup where he grabbed a long rebound and went coast to coast.

“The war is in the paint. We try to tell them game in and game out that you’ve got to go to war in the paint. If you get those rebounds and limit them to one shot, we’re in good shape,” Carter said. “We were just trying to clamp them down on defense, asking the guards to stay in front of them and take away their strength. Make it hard for them to run the offense and limit them to one shot.”

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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