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Natchez defense leads to comeback victory

NATCHEZ — Trailing by seven points entering the fourth quarter, the Natchez High coaching staff decided to turn up the defensive pressure and not let Vidalia’s post duo of Alvin Bell and D.J. Polk beat them.

The decision worked to perfection as the Bulldogs held the Vikings without a field goal in the final period and came back for a 59-56 victory.

Natchez outscored Vidalia 20-10 in the fourth quarter, and all of the Vikings’ points came from the free throw line.

“It was time to go all the way up with the press and sag back in the paint,” Natchez coach David Haywood said. “(Bell and Polk) were doing a lot of damage and we wanted to eliminate them. We wanted to make it our type of game, forcing turnovers and getting layups out of them.”

Natchez did just that, and it helped them overcome the seven-point deficit in just 52 seconds.

Rashon Bates opened the quarter with a three-point play. Trevon Chatman then stole the inbounds pass and converted a three-point play of his own when he hit a layup and was fouled.

Chatman got another layup after a steal to put Natchez up by a point and a Michael Watts layup after a steal gave the Bulldogs a three-point lead with still 6:44 remaining in the game.

But Vidalia overcame the early spurt and stayed in the game thanks to an abundance of Natchez fouls.

The Vikings were in the double bonus the entire quarter and took advantage of it by making free throws.

Vidalia’s Terrence Thompson tied the score at 56 with two free throws with 2:33 remaining, but Natchez would make the final big plays of the game.

Jonathan Griffin grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to give Natchez the lead for good with 1:35 remaining.

Griffin did it again on Natchez’s next possession, grabbing a Bulldog miss and getting fouled on his shot attempt.

Griffin hit one of two free throws with 50.5 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead.

“That was an example of our guys giving great effort,” Haywood said. “That’s what we asked of them. Play hard and play smart. And when they did that, they executed better.”

Vidalia had two chances to tie the game in the final minute, but missed three-point shots on their final two possessions.

A final Vikings inbounds pass in the final seconds was tipped away and the Bulldogs secured the three-point victory.

Chatman led all scorers with 25 points, and Haywood said he finally played a game up to his capabilities.

“I told him he’s been the best player in the gym several times this season but he hasn’t shown it,” Haywood said. “I told him it was time to prove it to everybody, and prove it to me.”

In addition to Chatman’s 25 points, Natchez (3-7) was led by Bates with 10 and Quincey Washington with eight.

Bell led Vidalia (5-6) with 18 points while Polk scored 16 and Brandon Bauchman chipped in with 10.