A match-up featuring two of the Coast's most talented teams serves as the marquee game of this year's Hoopsfest.
Biloxi (13-2) will take on Bay High (13-4) in the final game of the one-day tournament at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
Advance tickets for Hoopsfest, which is in its 23rd year, can be purchased at the participating schools for $8. Advanced tickets can also be bought at the box office for $10 and $11 on the day of the event.
The Indians are ranked No. 1 by the Sun Herald this week and Bay High checks in at No. 3.
“A number of people tell me they think they're the two best teams on the Coast,” Gulfport athletic director Bryan Caldwell said. “Let's get them on the floor and settle it.”
Caldwell has taken over as the event's organizer after Buddy Kennedy retired as the Pass Christian head coach following the 2015-16 season.
The slate of games that Caldwell pieced together features several interesting contests, but Bay High-Biloxi should have the most buzz headed into the event.
“I actually kind of expected it,” Biloxi coach Seber Windham said of his match-up with Bay High. “We don't play them on the schedule. We haven't played Bay High in three or four years. Me and (Bay High coach Randy McCrory) are very good friends. I know what type of talent they've got. We're usually one of the late games.”
McCrory looks forward to leading his team into the coliseum for a prime time contest.
“It kind of caught us by surprise a little bit. We're excited about playing Biloxi – a lot of tradition and a well-coached team,” McCrory said. “Coach Windham does an excellent job with those boys. They play very hard. We're really excited about the match-up, especially playing late at night. The last few years we've been one of the early games. Playing a prime time kind of game, that says a lot that the program is moving forward.”
Guard Fred Ramsey-Thompson, who is averaging 16.7 points a game, is the senior leader for the Indians.
Bay High has one of the deepest rosters in South Mississippi this year. The Tigers are led in the frontcourt by a pair of brothers, Galen Smith Jr. and Galen Smith III. Galen Smith III, who stands 6-foot-9, is averaging 13.9 points and 9.2 rebounds. Six-foot-7 Galen Smith Jr. is averaging 10.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.
The Tigers are also strong in the backcourt with senior Chris Moody, junior Jaylan Wilson and senior Darius Wyman making key contributions.
D'Iberville-West Harrison will begin the action at 10 a.m. on Jan. 28 and Long Beach-Pass Christian will follow at 11:30 a.m.
The third game of the day at 1 p.m. will feature an all-Jackson County contest with St. Martin taking on Vancleave. The two teams met on Dec. 20 at St. Martin with the Yellow Jackets walking away with a 59-53 win in double overtime.
The Pascagoula-Picayune contest at 2:30 p.m. should be one of the better games of the day. The Panthers (12-4) are ranked No. 2 and the Maroon Tide (12-4) have proven to be one of the surprise teams in South Mississippi with a No. 8 ranking.
No. 6 Harrison Central (9-5) has the honor of playing the one team that's not from South Mississippi. The Red Rebels will face Madison-Ridgeland Academy, an MAIS team expected compete for a state title.
No. 4 Gulfport (10-6) will face No. 7 George County (12-1) in the 5:30 game, marking the first time the two teams have played since 2002 when Caldwell was the head basketball coach at Gulfport.
“We're really excited about being part of Hoopsfest this year,” George County coach Ron Renfroe said. “We think it's a great lineup. This is probably one of the best single-day basketball events in the state.”
The day will wrap up at 8:30 p.m. with the Papa John's Bringin' Down the House Slam Dunk Competition & Three-point Shootout with players from all teams taking part.
When: Jan. 28
Where: Mississippi Coast Coliseum, Biloxi
Tickets: $8 advance at schools, $10 advance at box office, $11 on day of event at box office
10 a.m. — D’Iberville vs. West Harrison
11:30 a.m. — Long Beach vs. Pass Christian
1 p.m. — St. Martin vs. Vancleave
2:30 p.m. — Pascagoula vs. Picayune
4 p.m. — Harrison Central vs. MRA
5:30 p.m. — Gulfport vs. George County
7 p.m. — Biloxi vs. Bay High
8:30 p.m. — Slam dunk and 3-point contest