This is the eighth of 22 stories counting down the top 22 games in Robert Sanders career as head boys basketball coach at Vidalia High.
Sanders retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Sanders began coaching at Vidalia in 1991 and compiled a 476-336, advancing to the state championship game in 2009 before leading the Vikings to the Class 3A state championship in 2010.
At No. 13 is Vidalia’s Class 2A quarterfinal playoff loss to Ville Platte on March 2, 2007 in Vidalia.
“It was a home game, but it felt like an away game,” Sanders said.
Strict regulations at the time had Vidalia High selling tickets early in the day for the contest.
When Vidalia High students walked out into the parking lot following the final bell they found a very large group of Ville Platte fans awaiting the 7 p.m. tip-off.
The debris on the ground also alluded to quite a tailgate party.
When the doors to the gym opened at 5:30 p.m. it took all of 15 minutes to fill up the small gym.
The gym holds 800 people and Ville Platte fans had scooped up 372 prior to game day.
Bulldog fans filled up most of the team bench side and part of the stage, while Vidalia fans not about to be intimidated filled the other side and underneath the basket filtering into the lobby.
When both teams came out for warm-ups it felt as if the gym ceiling would lift right off from the noise.
Vidalia, playing without a senior, defeated Lakeside and Noth Caddo to reach the quarterfinals, while Ville Platte had disposed bo St. Helena and Kinder.
Ville Platte led 18-15 after one period and 48-38 at halftime.
A Jeremy Randall basket cut Ville Platte’s lead to 55-48 i the third quarter before Kevin Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Bulldog lead to 57-54 going into the final period.
Vidalia pulled to within three points three times in the final quarter with Tony Hawkins hitting a 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining to pull the Vikings to within 70-69.
Randall stole an in-bounds pass and laid it up for a 71-70 Viking lead with two minutes remaining in the game.
Jevan Freeman put the Bulldogs back in front and an intentional foul with 1:39 remaining on a breakaway put Ville Platte up 75-71.
Ville Platte made its free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“I had never played before that many people,” said Stewart, who was a freshman at the time. “I was excited to play in front of so many people. We just wanted to showcase Vidalia. I think that loss was a good experience for us and helped us get motivated the following years.”
Ville Platte fans stormed the floor after the game and then wanted to take down the net near the stage.
But a defiant Vidalia High principal Rick Brown stood strong in the middle of the lane shaking his head back and forth.
Vidalia policemen came to Brown’s aid and Bulldog players and coaches were escorted away from the area.
Vidalia ended the season at 17-12. Ville Platte lost to eventual state champion St. Thomas Aquinas in the semifinals.