Fourth quarter defense lifts Vikings to Lafayette

Published 1:04 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

VIDALIA — For three quarters, Rayville’s fast-break run-and-gun offense had ripped Vidalia to the tune of 79 points.

The Vikings were doing all they could just to keep up and found themselves down four points entering the final period.

But with a raucous home crowd behind them and the Cajundome in Lafayette, La., in front of them, the Vikings turned up the defense in the fourth quarter, allowing the Hornets to score just eight points and pulled away for a 98-87 win that puts them in the Top 28 Tournament for the second consecutive year.

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“We knew deep down we were going to come back and win it,” Vidalia guard Gary Stewart said. “We had the crowd behind us and we just had to come out and give it everything we had.”

And that included tightening up a defense that had been taken advantage of by Rayville’s lightning-quick guards in the first three quarters.

“We went into a full court press in the fourth quarter and we also started getting back in transition better,” Vidalia coach Robert Sanders said. “We did that well in the first quarter, but we got away from it in the second and third quarters, and they got easy baskets out of it.”

Trailing 79-75 entering the fourth quarter, the Vikings forced Rayville to turn the ball over on five out of seven possessions.

Quartrell Thomas’s driving layup off a nice pass from Stewart gave Vidalia the lead at 80-79 with 5:43 remaining and the Vikings never looked back, outscoring Rayville 23-8 over the final eight minutes of the game.

Not only did Vidalia play airtight defense the final eight minutes, the Vikings were also able to get in the lane for numerous layups and in the final period.

“(Rayville) went to a man-to-man defense,” Sanders said. “We feel like anytime an opposing team does that, we can drive on them.”

Torrey Dixon led the Vikings (30-4) scoring output with 34 points while Thomas had 19, Stewart scored 18 and D.J. Polk chipped in with 16.

Phaquinton Lawson led Rayville (21-10) with 27 points while Darius Harris scored 22 and Earl Williams tallied 17.

While the first and fourth quarters were dominated by Vidalia, the middle two quarters were controlled by Rayville in a breathtaking display of athleticism.

The Hornets barely gave Vidalia’s defense time to catch its breath, as they would fly down the court after made or missed Vidalia baskets, and usually penetrate the lane for layups.

After being down 27-19 at the end of the first quarter, Rayville outscored Vidalia 28-21 in the second and 32-27 in the third to take a four-point lead into the final period.

Being down in the fourth quarter was a new experience for Vidalia, which hasn’t lost a game in months, but Sanders said his players never panicked.

“They were very confident,” Sanders said. “Even though we were down in the fourth quarter, they were very confident they were going to come back and win. We just had to eliminate our turnovers and play better defense.”

And it didn’t hurt to have a thunderous crowd screaming its lungs out the entire game.

“The crowd kept us in it,” Polk said. “We knew we were going to come back and get back to the dome. The crowd helped push us through.”