One thing for certain

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2003

WINNSBORO, La. &045; McCall head coach Mitchell Riggs was not sure where his Dragons would be playing to start the playoffs after Friday’s game with Vidalia, but he knows it will be on the road.

Because of an incident last season where a fan slapped the ball from a referee’s hand during a game, McCall was forced to play all its district and playoff games this year away from its home confines.

Riggs didn’t know who his squad will be playing either, but he’s positive it is a wild-card team.

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Why? The answer lies in McCall’s emphatic 85-68 victory over the Vikings (21-6, 7-2) to claim the district 3-2A championship.

&uot;It means a lot for us to win this championship,&uot; said Antonio Vaughn, who led the Dragons with 21 points. &uot;We wanted to come out and play as hard as we could to win and I think we did that.&uot;

This McCall (21-8, 8-1) team and the one that beat Vidalia a couple of weeks ago 73-72 is a total reversal of the one that lost to the Vikings 100-87 early in the district season.

Because both teams were tied atop the district standings, Friday night’s game was played in Winnsboro at a neutral site.

After Vidalia had stole the first-half excitement away from the Dragons late in the second period with a 9-0 run to go into the break up three, 38-35, McCall fell behind by as many five before retaking control of the game.

&uot;I always tell my guys that every good team has a run in them and the way we fought (Vidalia) off makes me proud,&uot; Riggs said. &uot;That momentum went their way in the second period, but we got it back.&uot;

The Dragons asserted themselves by attacking the basket and beat Vidalia’s man-to-man defense in the half-court.

With more than two minutes left in the third period, the Vikings were already guilty of 10 team fouls,

meaning McCall shot two free throws every time it was hacked the rest of the way.

Rodney Williams’ two consecutive successful trips to the line midway through the third gave the Dragons four points and a 46-42 lead with 4:30 to play.

Due to foul trouble Vidalia big man Louis McNulty and Ajay Warner sat for most of the third and the Dragons took advantage of that.

&uot;When Louis sat that took half of our inside game away and we made some turnovers, which is quite unusual for us,&uot; Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders said. &uot;Will regroup, though, in time for next week’s playoffs.&uot;

Sanders said the Vikings will host a first-round game, most likely against Vermillion Catholic.

A technical foul against Vidalia blew the a close margin wide open, as the Dragons built their lead up to 12, 60-48, when Chris Williams stole the ball and converted on a layup with 13.8 seconds left in the third.

Williams, who finished with 17, joined Vaughn and the three other McCall starters to score in double figures.

&uot;As the season has progressed players are starting to understand their roles better,&uot; Riggs said. &uot;It took some time to get the chemistry together, but we’re here now.

&uot;I don’t think we’ve peaked yet either.&uot;

The air seemed to deflate from the mostly McCall-partisan crowd in the second period when Vidalia finished the quarter on a 24-6 run.

The Vikings fell behind 22-11 at the end of the first period as the McCall press defense and a raucous crowd got them out of sync.

The deficit grew to 15 when the Dragons’ Johnathan Stewart put back a missed 3-pointer with 5:55 left.

Vidalia switched from its zone defense to a man-to-man, which helped, and began forcing the Dragons into turnovers.

Tony Hawkins, who led the Vikings with 21 points of his own, hit his third trey of the period to tie the game 34-all with :50.3 seconds left to cap a 9-0 run.

The Vikings got a bucket from McNulty to go up one, 36-35, with 5 seconds left and Jessie Lyles’ tenacious defense created a steal and his only two points of the night as the first half horn sounded.

Everything seemed to be going right for Vidalia, except it was headed to the locker room.

&uot;We had the momentum going at the time and then halftime hit and it slowed us down,&uot; Sanders said. &uot;We needed to approach the second half with the same intensity and we didn’t do it.&uot;