Gators come out gate hot, end VHS playoff run

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

VIDALIA, La. &045; Maurice Barnes doesn’t hide the fact he’s only 6-1.

Barnes is about like the rest of the starting five on Lakeview’s club &045; not too big, not too thick and not intimidating. But once the buzzer sounded to start the Gators’ game in a jam-packed Vidalia gym Friday, the Barnes and the Gators showed what kind of players they can be despite physical attributes.

The Gators &045; the defending Class 2A state champs &045; dominated on the glass, played strong defense and used their quickness to take a 67-48 win over Vidalia to advance to the Top 28 in Lafayette. They’ll face the winner of the University-West St. John game.

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&uot;I’ve been playing against people bigger than me even since my ninth-grade year,&uot; said Barnes, a junior who scored a game-high 24 points. &uot;I just go in there and play defense. I just go up and do my thing. I don’t care. They might talk trash, but I don’t say anything. I just stick to my game plan.&uot;

That’s kind of what the Gators did throughout the contest against the Vikings &045; they didn’t want to fall behind early, they couldn’t let Louis McNulty go off on them on the block and they couldn’t let that Vidalia press give them problems.

No, no and no.

The Gators had an 18-10 lead just five minutes into the game thanks to some hot shooting that sort of set the tone.

&uot;Basically that’s what we wanted to do,&uot; Lakeview head coach Mack Braxton said. &uot;We wanted to come in and get a good start. If we came in and got behind, we knew Vidalia could make it a long game. We knew they could hold the ball and make it real difficult. That’s what I told them today &045; get the lead early so we don’t have to play from behind.&uot;

The defense, too, gave Vidalia some problems at times as the Gators took a double-digit lead heading into halftime. The Vikings couldn’t get in a rhythm shooting the ball in the first half against the Gators’ man-to-man defense, and they had just seven points in the second quarter.

A bucket from Barnes with 1:32 left put the lead at 29-18, and the Vikings answered with a big 3-pointer from Tony Hawkins to get the crowd back into it just 20 seconds later. But the Gators didn’t allow a point after that and got two buckets from Rickey Johnson to close out the first half with a 33-21 lead.

&uot;They wanted it, seems like, more than we did,&uot; Vidalia head coach Robert Sanders said. &uot;We weren’t moving like we had practiced. We knew 23 (DeAngelo Coleman) was a shooter. We decided to go to a box-and-one. We went to a 1-2-2 defense, and that kind of helped a little bit.&uot;

In the second half the Vikings at times made little runs and seemed to be on the verge of getting back in the game, but Lakeview answered each time. Hawkins put in a basket off a steal with 4:20 left in the third to cut the lead to 37-27 and cap a 6-0 run, but the Gators answered back with a run of their own.

Just as the Gators controlled the boards most of the night, Coleman found a rebound and put it back in with 2:43 left to finish a 6-0 LHS run and put the lead at 43-27.

&uot;We do a good job and work on it very hard,&uot; Braxton said of rebounding. &uot;Maurice is small, but he plays like he’s 6-5 or 6-6. They’re underestimated because of their size, but they get in there and rebound.&uot;

It left the Vikings trying to play a full-court game, and the Gators got behind on their press as well. McNulty, who had 18 points in the Vikings’ huge win at Episcopal Tuesday, had just two points.

Often times McNulty was out-manned on the boards, too. The Gators took a 49-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter and opened the fourth with a 6-2 edge to take a 55-36 lead on a fast-break layup from Barnes.

&uot;A lot of times they had three guys against one,&uot; Sanders said. &uot;Our guys were standing around looking, and Louis was all by himself. We can’t do that. They were getting three and four shots at the basket at a time.

&uot;They were getting behind (our press). We really didn’t do our rotation like we should have. We didn’t bring it to the floor for some reason in all aspects of the game.&uot;

The Gators utilized the baseball pass to circumvent Vidalia’s 2-2-1 press late in the game. Darnei Bates had a fast-break layup with 2:58 left to put the lead at 58-38, Rickey Johnson had a put-back bucket with 2:34 left and Bates followed with a dunk to finish a fast break with 2:08 left for a 62-41 lead.

&uot;That (rebounding) was very important tonight for us,&uot; Barnes said. &uot;If we would have gotten out-rebounded, we probably would have lost the game. That (Top 28) has been the motivation since Day 1. A lot of people have been talking about us, and some people said we wouldn’t get to Lafayette because we lost one of our starters.&uot;