Lady Vikings beat Natchez in title game

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

VICKSBURG &045; You knew something was wrong early when for the first time since maybe November there was a team putting the pressure on Natchez High and the Lady Bulldogs weren’t responding.

For a team that’s built its livelihood here in that 11-game winning streak on pressure defense, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves on the receiving end of a what they’ve given out to every opponent in recent weeks.

Even after they regrouped a bit and made a game out of it, they couldn’t recover. Warren Central’s press and inside game was too much as the Lady Vikings claimed a 68-52 win to claim the Division 6-5A tournament championship.

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The Lady Bulldogs will hit the road Monday at Hancock to open the playoffs.

&uot;We got in a hole early, and I’m really happy about the way we fought back,&uot; NHS senior Jasmine Woods said. &uot;Normally our defense is our bread and butter, but we had crucial mistakes at crucial times. It killed us, ultimately. We had studied how to break that press yesterday, and we didn’t quite follow through as we were told to break it.&uot;

The defensive intensity was missing in a second quarter where the Lady Vikings brought theirs with a 1-2-1-1 press and put up eventually a 24-point lead. It helped trigger a 16-2 run to end the second quarter as Warren Central led 35-19 at half.

The lead got to 46-22 at the 4:22 mark in the third on a bucket from Cookie Johnson.

&uot;Since we pressed them the last two times we played them, we thought we could get after them with it,&uot; said WC head coach Donny Fuller, whose club captured its third straight tournament title. &uot;We didn’t do anything different. The only time we do something different is for Vicksburg. But those Natchez kids didn’t quit. They fought back and made a game of it.&uot;

The Lady Bulldogs pulled off their press in the second quarter and early third to stay in a half-court game against a team that was controlling the boards. The score was tied at 14 after one, but the Lady Vikings got rolling in the second with the run that kept the Lady Bulldogs without a field goal just nearly five minutes.

Carla Latham’s putback with 1:53 left in the half put the lead at 31-17, and Candace Frye ended it with a bucket for Natchez at the 1:39 mark.

&uot;I don’t know what happened,&uot; Natchez High head coach Sue Johnson said. &uot;I really don’t know. We worked on that (press) yesterday in practice. We tried to beat it. It just seemed like it was a waste of time at practice yesterday. We kept losing focus today. We just didn’t stay focused.

&uot;It was the same (press). We knew what to do. We didn’t move. We didn’t move our feet the whole first half.&uot;

Warren Central led 35-19 at halftime and came out firing in the second half to get its biggest lead of the game. Latham scored on a putback at the 4:56 mark to end a 9-2 run for a 44-21 lead. Cookie Johnson followed with a bucket later for a 46-22 lead.

&uot;They did a real good job on the offensive glass,&uot; Woods said. &uot;Just rebonding, period. They got a lot of second chances and kept us from getting second chances. That was real good.&uot;

But Woods and the Lady Bulldogs didn’t lay down from there on out and made a game of it late. After falling behind by that 34-point deficit, the Lady Bulldogs got a bucket from Woods to spark a 17-4 run to end the quarter.

Woods later came with a three-point play at the 2:27 mark, and Wennifer Noble drained a bucket with 16 seconds left to trim the deficit to 50-39 heading into the fourth quarter.

&uot;We moved our feet the second half,&uot; Sue Johnson said. &uot;We weren’t focused &045; that’s all I can keep saying. We cut it to 10 at one point, and we should have cut it to about four if we wouldn’t have turned the ball over three or four times straight. We just got too anxious. But you know they played extremely hard that second half. I can’t be mad at them.&uot;

The Lady Bulldogs couldn’t hold the deficit in single digits and at best traded baskets with Warren Central. Ke’Airra Jones caught a long heave from Kameshia Sproulls at the 5:42 mark to put the deficit at 54-45, but the Lady Vikings came back with buckets from Brittany Banks and Saleda Montgomery to take away any momentum.

Jones came with a layup later that trimmed the deficit to 58-49 with 4:35 left, but all the Lady Bulldogs could account from after that was a 3-pointer from Wennifer Noble.

&uot;We got a big lead and kind of relaxed,&uot; Fuller said. &uot;That worries me. When you play somebody, you’ve got to put them away. We didn’t do that. Natchez has a really good team, and they had been on a roll.&uot;