Five basketball teams from East Jackson County will be playing in the first round of the playoffs today, including a pair of girls-boys doubleheaders.
In the Class 5A South State playoffs, Pascagoula hosts the Picayune girls and boys starting at 6 p.m. and the Gautier boys and girls will travel to West Harrison also for a 6 p.m. tipoff.
The Moss Point boys will host North Pike at 6 p.m. today in the Class 4A playoffs. It will be the Tigers' first playoff game since 2012 after missing out last season.
Moss Point (16-14) went undefeated against Division 8-4A competition this season, but had to rally past St. Stanislaus, 55-53, to take the division tournament on Friday.
Moss Point coach Melvin Booker said that "all of Bay St. Louis" was there to root against Moss Point, but he believed the setting prepared his squad for the postseason.
"We needed that," Booker said. "I understood that night before that it was going to be a tough game. It was like a playoff game for us. It was really good for us. Like I told our kids after the game, it's a great opportunity to see that kind of atmosphere. It was an opportunity to prepare for the playoff run"
North Pike is 16-10 and went 7-5 in division, and should be a strong first round opponent for the Tigers.
North Pike is an undersized squad that is led by senior guard Xavius Turner, who averages 15.6 points a game.
Moss Point will again be led by Devin Booker, who is averaging 31 points this season.
While Booker is the unquestioned go-to man, Melvin Booker is also liking what he's seeing off his bench right now.
Senior swing Lateriss Brown brings energy on defense while Juan Parker and Greg Williams are the options in the frontcourt.
The 6-foot-3 Parker has seen his minutes increase in recent weeks as he continues to do all the little things well.
"He's doing all our dirty
work," Melvin Booker said. "He sets picks, rebounds and dives on the floor for the ball. We needed a bruiser in there to do those things."
The Pascagoula boys (21-6) are seeking their fourth consecutive trip to the state semifinals in Jackson, and it hopes to begin the run today against Picayune (16-13).
Division 8-5A MVP La'Datren Deas and fellow senior Bobby Nettles combine to give Pascagoula one of the better and more experienced backcourts on the Coast, but sophomore forward Jacques Belford has also been key to the team's success of late.
He led Pascagoula in scoring in both wins in the Division 8-5A Tournament by averaging 16.0 points.
"We're getting him the ball more and he's asking for the ball more," Deas said. "He's getting the ball in his hands and he knows what's to do it."
Deas believes this year's squad has the chemistry that was lacking on the 2012-13 team that suffered from too much bickering between teammates.
"We're all one, family," Deas said.
Deas pointed to coach Ronald Norman as the main reason for the turnaround in cohesiveness.
"It was most definitely Norman," Deas said. "Not everybody saw eye to eye last year. We were arguing with teammates and ready to fight. This year, it's different."
The Pascagoula-Picayune winner will meet the West Jones-Wingfield winner in the next round. The Gautier-West Harrison winner will meet the Brookhaven-Laurel winner in the next round.
The State Tournament is March 7-15 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.