Vidalia men pull away in tight battle, Ferriday women prevail in Alumni games

Published 12:04 am Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vidalia’s Torrey Dixon converts a fast-break layup opportunity in the first Battle of Concordia Parish Alumni Game Saturday afternoon (Ben Hilyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Vidalia’s Torrey Dixon converts a fast-break layup opportunity in the first Battle of Concordia Parish Alumni Game Saturday afternoon (Ben Hilyer / The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — Ferriday High School alumnus Alrion McKeel knew enough about the Ferriday/Vidalia boys’ basketball rivalry to understand a 16-2 Vidalia lead wouldn’t discourage the Trojans.

McKeel and other alumni from Ferriday battled back to make the first ever Battle of Concordia Parish Alumni Game an instant classic Saturday afternoon, falling to Vidalia 74-67.

“This is the best rivalry period,” McKeel said. “Both teams will always fight until the end.”

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Vidalia raced out to the big lead minutes into the game after former teammates Gary Stewart and Torrey Dixon each drilled a 3-pointer. The Vikings took a 24-9 lead into the second quarter, and after Ronald Ellis found Dixon for an alley oop, the Vidalia gym was rocking with the home team leading 30-14.

But the Trojans weren’t going down that easy. McKeel sliced his way through the lane to convert layup attempts, while Carlton Robinson stroked jumpers from the perimeter. After back-to-back 3-pointers from Mike Tennessee, the Trojans cut the lead to 37-34 at half.

After the break, Jessie Banks hit a 3-pointer to start the second half for Vidalia, extending the Vikings lead to 40-34. After Ferriday would make a push, Stewart and Dixon, who brought Vidalia a state championship in 2010, would look for each other on fast-break opportunities. After Stewart found Dixon on the second of their two alley oop hookups, Vidalia took a 56-45 lead into the fourth quarter.

“Basically, when it got to clutch time, I would go to what I’m used to,” Stewart said. “Me and Torrey, we’ve always had a great connection, so it was only right that we did what wedid. Somebody told me that it looked like high school all over again.”

Again, Ferriday wouldn’t go down without a fight, as Robinson inched the Trojans closer with a 3-pointer and jumper to make the game 58-54 midway through the fourth. Stewart turned it on from there, serving as the closer and scoring eight points in the final quarter to clinch Vidalia’s 74-67 win.

Dixon was awarded the MVP for his rebounding and aerial display of dunks.

“It was good to get back out here and play ball with guys I grew up playing with,” said Dixon after the win.

The women’s game, which took place right before the men tipped off, was far less dramatic. The Ferriday women jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first quarter, and things went from bad to worse for Vidalia in the second period, when the Trojans extended their lead to 27-7.

Monique Jones, who was awarded the MVP for her 3-point shots and ability to push the pace, said the trip from Texas was worth making for the experience.

“Everybody knows me as a basketball star, so it’s my honor and my pleasure to do anything for Ferriday,” said Jones who played at Ferriday High in 2002 and later played at Baylor and South Alabama. “I came all the way from Dallas just for this. I love my high school.”

As Ferriday kept building to its lead, daughter battled mother, as Ferriday alumnus Jasmine Upchurch nearly drove Ferriday head coach and Vidalia alumnus Lisa Abron out of bounds as Upchurch pressured Abron with the ball following a rebound.

“It felt good to beat her, even though she didn’t really play the whole time,” Upchurch said, laughing. “Everybody got winded in the game.”

Following the 63-21 Ferriday win, Abron hugged Ferriday players she had coached over the years, wearing a big smile.

“It was good to see all of my old girls,” Abron said. “We had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to next year.”