By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
VICKSBURG – Mychal Ammons is called the “Monster” by his Vicksburg teammates.
However, the Gators’ powerful 6-foot-6 forward, who scored 29 points, wasn’t the only difference in Vicksburg’s 77-72 overtime victory against Tupelo in Friday’s semifinals of the North Mississippi 6A boys tournament.
Tupelo’s monster was the turnover.
The Golden Wave committed three critical miscues in final 1 minute, 19 seconds of regulation, lost a six-point lead, and eventually missed punching its first ticket to the state tournament since 1999.
“Those were tough turnovers,” a disappointed Tupelo coach Grant Pate said outside a quiet locker room. “Above and beyond that, I’m proud of the way our guys responded this year.
“I can’t be any more proud of a group of kids. They fought all year long. They’ve been great to work with. This has been an outstanding season. I appreciate the effort they’ve given.”
Vicksburg will play Starkville, a 52-48 winner against Murrah, in today’s 7 p.m. championship game. The winner will be the North’s top seed in next week’s state tournament while the loser will be the No. 2 seed.
Tupelo (28-4) took a 67-61 lead Dajon Reno’s 3-point bomb from the right baseline.
Vicksburg (25-3) answered with a 3-pointer from Willie Gibbs, then got a layup from Ammons following a Golden Wave turnover.
The teams traded miscues with under 30 seconds remaining. Tupelo, up by one point, then mishandled a pass and eventually sent Ammons, a South Alabama signee, to the free throw line with 6.4 seconds showing. He hit the first of a one-plus-one to tie the score, but missed the second.
In overtime, Tupelo missed on five straight field goal attempts and fell behind 73-67. Shane Butler’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left cut the Gators’ lead to 74-70.
“We couldn’t get nothing (in OT),” Wave forward Chris Brooks said. “I guess we slacked off on our defense.”
Vicksburg sank 3 of its last 4 free throws to seal the win.
Tupelo trailed 53-52 entering the fourth quarter, but chopped away behind the perimeter scoring of Reno and Butler, and the inside drives of Deontaye Ewing.
Butler scored 19 and Ewing added 18 for the Golden Wave. Dominque Brown added 19 for the Gators.
“Vicksburg’s a great team. They’ve got an outstanding player in Michael Ammons,” Pate said.