Hawkins’ jam is VHS’ exclamation point

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

SICILY ISLAND, La. &045; Once the lane parted like the Red Sea, Tony Hawkins wanted it all.

Not known for hops but instead for quickness and shooting, Hawkins drove a wide-open lane and wanted to finish it off the best way possible. The time was right halfway through the third quarter with the Vidalia Vikings already pulling away from Delhi in the finals of the Sicily Island tournament.

So just like any crowd-pleaser would, Hawkins drove the lane, slammed it home and came up hollering.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I surprised myself,&uot; said Hawkins, whose 10 points helped the Vikings dispose of Delhi, 56-41, while he was named tournament MVP. &uot;But I told them I felt like that would be my only shot to dunk before I graduate. I went hard and tried to throw it down. I’ve probably made about two my whole life, but I dunked twice yesterday during halftime of the girls’ game. So I gave it a shot.&uot;

Add that to the list of things Hawkins has done as a well-documented athlete at Vidalia. Add to it the senior is adapting well at the shooting guard position alongside point guard C.J. Williams, and the 6-1 Vikings are developing a good outside threat to complement the inside.

The threat is paramount for teams like Delhi who play a box-and-one defense centered on 6-4 post Louis McNulty. And as McNulty moved away from the goal as he did on Hawkins’ dunk, the lane was just about as open as 24-hour convenience store.

&uot;They got the lane open for him,&uot; Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders said. &uot;He said he could do it. He showed us. The lane just opened for him, and he took his man off the dribble. When he takes his time and takes what the defense gives him, he’s adjusted quite a lot. A lot of times we have to slow him down.&uot;

The effort to work the ball around offensively without using McNulty worked as the Vikings’ big man was held scoreless in the second half while others picked up the slack. The Bears (7-5) had cut the lead to seven early in the third quarter before the Vikings turned it up a bit.

The Bears, who lost all five starters from a year ago, tried that box and a 2-3 zone to stop the Vikings but couldn’t get enough going offensively.

&uot;Vidalia has a real nice ball club,&uot; Delhi head coach Kenneth Smith said. &uot;They came to play basketball tonight. Our kids just didn’t show up. We lost five starters from last year, but we’re not making that our excuse. The kids have enough ball games under their belt to know what to do. We’ve got to go out and execute. We just didn’t show up and play tonight.&uot;

The shots weren’t falling for the Bears, and the turnovers were falling for the way of the Vikings for a stretch in the third. After Marcus Carter put in a bucket for the Bears to cut the lead to 31-22 with 4:18 left, Ken Johnson missed a close shot and watched a Delhi player get the rebound.

But Johnson got the steal just a couple steps away and laid it back in. The Vikings got the ball back, and McNulty found Rodney Washington underneath for an assist as Washington’s bucket made it 35-22.

That’s when Hawkins came with the dunk, and you can guess where the momentum went after that. Delhi got one basket the rest of the quarter as Vidalia held a nice 41-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

&uot;We were ahead at halftime, and coach told us to go out and play like we were behind,&uot; Hawkins said. &uot;Play hard and try to put them away, and that’s what we did. They double on Louis, and we just try to take advantage of it. This was our only tournament of the whole year. We should be all right for the rest of the year if we play as a team and play hard-nosed defense.&uot;

It was offense &045; or lack thereof &045; that got Sanders fired up early in the game and kept the Bears in it. Delhi led the entire first quarter and got a 13-10 lead almost halfway through the second when Sanders jerked all five starters out.

Not that it was a bad thing &045; the Vikings still played defense and took the lead &045; but the Vikings got the point. McNulty tossed in a basket with 1:48 left for a 20-13 lead before Khy Smith hit a 3-pointer to trim it to 20-16.

Steven Cooper then converted on a three-point play before McNulty tossed in another basket to give the Vikings a 25-16 lead at the break.

&uot;We knew the lane was open,&uot; Sanders said. &uot;The second quarter we pulled our starters like North Carolina did today, and it seemed to work to our advantage.&uot;