Cold-shooting NHS falls to Warren Central

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Forget all the logistics, averages and stats you can. It’s often the simple things that make all the difference in the world.

Warren Central didn’t have to stray from its 2-3 zone defense a bit against Natchez High Friday night, a lesson learned from the first time the two teams met last month up in Vicksburg. While the Bulldogs did have a new presence on the inside since that last meeting, WC head coach Will Johnson stuck with his gut.

The 2-3 defense.

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So when the Vikings picked it up a notch in the second half, they were able to escape with a 49-34 win at the NHS gym to stay in second place in Division 6-5A.

&uot;The reason I did that was because we played them in a man-to-man the first time,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;They did pretty well against that, but they struggled against (the zone) the second half. I said, ‘Let’s go zone the whole game this time.’ We gave up a tough loss to Forest Hill, and that kind of hurt us. We felt this was a must-win for us, and we came out and executed well.&uot;

The Bulldogs stayed in it in the first half but couldn’t continue in the second half as the Vikings pulled away. Stampley got touches inside but couldn’t fight off the double- and triple-teams in the paint, and the Bulldogs couldn’t get the shots to go consistently to stay in the game.

The Bulldogs (5-6, 1-2) had just one field goal in the third.

&uot;I don’t know &045; it just confused us a lot,&uot; guard DaMorris Merrick said. &uot;We didn’t execute enough to score. It would have gotten our momentum up if we could have made a shot. It would have really boosted us. We were expecting a zone because we watched it on film. They felt they played better in a zone than they did a man.&uot;

The Bulldogs got a field goal out of Tyrone Butler less than two minutes into the second half before everything dried up. Although Michael Chatman tossed in two free throws with 3:31 left to trim the lead to 27-23, the Vikings called a timeout and picked up the intensity a bit.

&uot;We just upped the intensity defensively and made some crucial steals,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;We turned that into some easy points. I think (Stampley) was a new addition &045; he didn’t get to play up there, and they wanted to use him inside because we’re kind of small inside. But he wasn’t making most of his free throws most of the time.&uot;

From there they finished the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 35-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter as Stampley was held scoreless in the quarter. After the Bulldogs got three quick points, the Vikings answered with a 3-pointer from Cody Grant for a 38-25 lead.

&uot;They played a modified or matchup type of (defense), and we were able to knock down some open shots inside,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;Our nemesis has been the inside shots, and we did a better job of making those shots inside.&uot;

Stampley tossed in a bucket in the fourth quarter that kept the Bulldogs within striking range at 41-29 with 3:13 left, but Warren Central held them scoreless until the 2:00 mark when Greg Purnell knocked down a 3-pointer.

That came after six straight free throws from the Vikings, who had a 47-32 lead after Purnell’s triple.

&uot;They picked up their intensity,&uot; NHS guard LeJuan Colbert said. &uot;We kind of laid down on offense and weren’t getting good shots. They were keying on (Stampley). We played well defensively. We could have stayed in the game with some steals, but we couldn’t maintain it. We’ve got to work on our offense more, and we’ve got to get good shots.&uot;

The Bulldogs fared better in the first half when they hit some shots and stayed in the game. Chatman hit a bucket with 3:45 left to cut the lead to 15-11 before Warren Central went on a 7-2 run to take a nine-point lead.

Stampley then hit one of two free throws and followed it with a bucket with 1:08 left to trim the WC lead to 22-16. Butler canned a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to put WC’s lead at 24-19 at halftime.

&uot;I would think (they keyed on him) because he didn’t play the first game,&uot; Merrick said. &uot;Since we had an inside presence, they were keying on him. They got some good open looks and knocked down the open shots. We weren’t contesting shots.&uot;