Vikings land first win in just second game since end of football season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; At this point those Vidalia Vikings sure do miss Ajay Warner.

It’s not so much his 21 points a game from last year they’re missing but his presence among a squad filled with football players. As the Vidalia football squad marched through the playoffs last year, Warner worked in the gym as the only straight basketball shooter on the team.

So when basketball started and everybody had to get in basketball shape, Warner was ready to go.

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This year, however, is a different story. The Vikings don’t have that luxury with Warner lost to graduation, and everyone is trying to get into basketball shape. They notched their first win of the season Tuesday in a 61-57 win over Davidson in only their second game.

&uot;They’re coming around,&uot; Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders said. &uot;It’s going to take them a few more games to get into basketball shape and get that football out of them. They look promising. It (Warner’s role) is a big focus. Ajay would have been in here while football was going on.&uot;

The plan so far is for Tony Hawkins to develop into that scoring threat, just as he did Tuesday with 20 points, to complement the inside game with 6-4 post Louis McNulty on the inside.

Hawkins delivered at times &045; he had 12 points in the second quarter &045; but a pesky Davidson team that wouldn’t stop hustling indicated the Vikings have a ways to go.

&uot;It was just our second game back,&uot; Hawkins said. &uot;It’s kind of hard for us. We’re still not in shape like we should be, but we’ll get there. Everybody is trying to play their role. We’ve been playing for four years. If you play your role, we’ll be all right.&uot;

The plan worked when it needed to against the Warriors on Tuesday, and it had to in the clutch when they wouldn’t go away in the second half and built up a double-digit lead in the first half.

The Warriors took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter when Frank Smith hit two free throws with 4:38 left, but the Vikings came up with some defensive stops to get steals and easy buckets. Hawkins answered with a bucket, C.J. Williams took a charge against Davidson’s Jonathan Johnson with 3:18 left for Johnson’s fifth foul and the Vikings didn’t let up.

&uot;We went to a different defense &045; a combination of zone and man,&uot; Sanders said. ‘It was to our advantage pretty much. They (Davidson) gave us a little trouble, but I wasn’t surprised.&uot;

McNulty &045; who finished the game with 17 points with nine coming from the free throw line &045; followed with a basket at the 2:19 mark to put the lead at 56-53, and Hawkins put in a basket off a steal by Ken Johnson for a 58-53 lead.

The Vikings put Smith on the line for two shots at the 1:50 mark, but he missed both. Then the Warriors put Hawkins on the line for two at the 1:13 mark, and sank both for the 60-53 lead.

Davidson got a free throw and a basket from Marcus Walker with under a minute to play that cut the lead to four, but shots later from Davidson didn’t fall. The Vikings held on to the ball for the win.

&uot;We pressed at the end of the game,&uot; Hawkins said. &uot;C.J. came up with a few big steals to give us boost.&uot;

Give credit, though, for Davidson’s hustle &045; particularly at the start. The Warriors’ zone defense placed an emphasis on stopping McNulty, and Vidalia’s shots from the outside weren’t falling.

Three straight baskets from the Warriors by Johnson, Kerry Washington and Robert Dunmore gave them a 16-6 lead with 50 seconds left in the first.

&uot;Louis had a good game,&uot; Hawkins said. &uot;They were out-hustling us. We weren’t hustling. We were throwing the ball in to Louis and standing still. They were triple-teaming him.&uot;

The Warriors kept with their up-tempo game and held an 18-9 lead at the end of the first quarter before upping it to 22-11 with 6:47 left on a Johnson bucket. But that’s when the Vikings picked up the intensity a bit on the defensive end by holding Davidson without a basket for over four minutes while stacking up a 13-2 run.

Hawkins’ three-point play with 1:44 tied the game at 28-28 and sparked an 11-0 run that gave the Vikings a 36-28 lead with 27 seconds left in the half.

&uot; Early on we couldn’t find our outside game,&uot; Sanders said. &uot;Once that happened, it opened up things for Louis.&uot;