Vicksburg shakes off Natchez for tight win

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; What’s been a season spotted with turnovers and bad breaks was almost turned around in a big way.

Then the turnovers and bad breaks followed at the wrong time.

Vicksburg’s top-seeded Gators had a dickens of a time putting away Natchez but finally did in the final two minutes to take a 38-33 win and avoid the first round upset.

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The Bulldogs ended the season 8-18.

&uot;I really thought our momentum got up going into the fourth quarter,&uot; Natchez senior guard Leon Stewart said. &uot;Then we started fouling, turning the ball over and losing control of the game. We started playing defense real, real hard and making turn the ball over, and we started getting shots on the inside.&uot;

The Bulldogs kept hanging around in the slow-paced contest and had a 33-31 lead with 2:08 left when Ronald Calcote hit a jumper. But after that the Bulldogs went scoreless, Vicksburg hit seven of eight free throws and the Bulldogs missed a free throw &045; one of three they had the entire game.

&uot;We fouled, and we didn’t need to foul,&uot; Calcote said. &uot;A lot of early mistakes hurt us. At the end we just slacked off. That (free throws) hurt us. I was telling my boys if we would have made our free throws that would have helped us out, too. Overall, I thought we played well. We should have started the season off playing like this.&uot;

The Gators (22-7) were solid down the line from the line, and Delvin Jones hit the first two at the 1:46 mark to tie the game at 33-33. Natchez post man Charles Cothern drew his fifth foul with 1:11 left, and Lemira Scott hit one of two for a 34-33 Vicksburg lead.

The Bulldogs had a turnover on their next possession, and Jones hit two more free throws with 37 seconds left for a 36-33 lead.

Natchez called a timeout with 14 seconds left, drew a foul on the inbounds play but came up empty on the front end of a one-and-one.

Vicksburg’s Cedric Parson then hit two free throws with 12 seconds left for the final five-point difference.

&uot;We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole the entire first half and the third quarter,&uot; Vicksburg head coach Dellie Robinson said. &uot;Any time you play Natchez at their home floor you’re going to have to work. There’s no doubt about it &045; we haven’t made a tough free throw down the stretch all year long. Cedric Parson made his biggest free throws of the entire year.&uot;

The Bulldogs entered the fourth quarter trailing 27-21 and started to heat up on the defensive end and down low. Calcote started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, and Gray scored right after to cut the lead to 27-26. Brian Williams then put in a jumper at the 4:41 mark to give the Bulldogs their first lead since the first quarter at 28-27.

&uot;All our big players played well inside,&uot; Stewart said. &uot;Not just one of them but all of them. I give credit to all of them. They stepped up getting offensive and defensive rebounds, and that really helped us.&uot;