The Admirals never quite got into rhythm Friday night. Hosting one of the top teams in the state in Meridian for the 34th annual Gulfport Holiday Classic, GHS started off cold and never really heated up.
The same couldn’t exactly be said for visiting Meridian. Led by former Pascagoula coach Ron Norman, the Wildcats shot out of the gate on a 9-0 run and out-raced the Admirals for a 50-39 victory to claim the tournament title at the Bert Jenkins Gymnasium.
“We never could get it to one or two baskets. We kept saying, ‘lets get it to one or two possessions, guys. We got it to eight (points) and then they stretched it,” GHS coach Owen Miller said. “They’re just a really good team and defensively, I just thought we didn’t get a lot of clean looks — and then when we got the clean looks we missed them.”
Even as the Admirals (10-6) began to heat up later in the game, the Wildcats (15-1) kept pace to deny the Admirals’ rally attempt.
Part of what makes the Wildcats so dangerous and a serious state title contender is their depth.
While 6-foot-6 Tyron Brewer is the unquestioned leader Meridian has a number of players who contribute in different ways.
Miles Miller knocked down two 3s against Gulfport; Brewer’s brother, Ledarrius, hit another long-range shot and is a threat all over the court; and Javius Malone helps make the team go from the point.
“They have a lot of size 1-5,” Miller said. “Not 6-8, but they have a lot of 6-3s and 6-4s. They’re long, well coached and seasoned with a lot of seniors.”
Norman called Brewer’s 17-point performance on Friday beast-like.
“On the offensive boards and put-backs, he was really active and he kind of put us on his shoulders and willed us to this win,” Norman said.
Despite the 11-point discrepancy in scoring, both sides felt they got better from Friday’s game. For the Wildcats, Norman’s squad had to adapt to different opponents and schemes.
“We played a different game than we’re used to playing. We usually play really up tempo. Our kids, we won a game where we didn’t play our style but proved we can win a different style of ballgame,” Norman said. “We came down here and got better. We really got better. We competed a lot harder. We took a loss last week. The kids came back with some resolve and really competed for us, playing well three days in a row.”
As for the Admirals, they saw improvement from a 64-40 loss to the same Meridian team two weeks ago.
“It was great for us to play these guys twice. We’re going to build on it. It’ll give us confidence,” Miller said. “I told the guys after the game that we have played a murderers row schedule and that’s going to be positive for us as we get into district play.”
Tip-ins: Members of the all-tournament team included Pascagoula’s Noel Jones, Harrison Central’s DaQuan Perkins, Gulfport’s Juan Irias and both Brewers from Meridian. … Between the first and second quarters Gulfport recognized former Lady Admiral and U.S. Olympian Brittney Reese.
Pascagoula 54, Harrison Central 47: Pascagoula (12-4) started the third-place game with a 13-2 run before Harrison Central (10-5) surged ahead 19-13 with a 17-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters. Aided by timely shooting from D’yasmond Booker and Jonas Burley, and a late 3 by Jordan Robinson, the Panthers mounted a rally of their own and clung to a 24-23 halftime lead.
The Panthers loosed things up early on in the second half and jumped out to a 42-27 advantage thanks in large part to seven points from Dequan Weatherspoon. HCHS clawed its way back under a double-digit deficit but never pulled within five points of Pascagoula.
Jones led Pascagoula with 14 points, while Weatherspoon chipped in 11 of his own. Perkins led HCHS with a game-high 18 points.
Pascagoula’s victory avenged a 67-57 loss to the Red Rebels earlier in the month.
Madison Central 56, Long Beach 41: Although Madison Central opened the game on a 9-0 run, the Bearcats (7-6) kept things close for the first half, trailing just 26-22 after two frames. The Jags (6-5), however, pulled away in the third quarter for a convincing victory and fifth-place finish in the tournament. Sam Meadows led MCHS with 15 points while both Michael Hammond and Javion Jordan scored 12 apiece. Darren Cook and Monta Davis led LBHS with 14 and 13 points respectively.
St. Martin 47, West Harrison 46: West Harrison (3-10) opened an 18-6 lead through the first quarter but St. Martin (12-6) stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring the Hurricanes 14-5 in the frame to trail just 23-20 at halftime. The Hurricanes held a 34-33 lead a quarter later, setting up a back-and-forth finish. Both teams led for short spurts in the fourth, with Daetren Bivens’ late 3-pointer from the corner edging the Yellow Jackets ahead of the Hurricanes. WHHS had one final chance but threw the ball away trying to make a last-second shot. Bivens scored a game-high 22 points, knocking down four 3-pointers, to lead the seventh-place finishers. Quieran Gray and Drelon Pittman led WHHS with 12 points apiece. Desmond McDaniel Jr. scored 11.