GULFPORT - Nishiana Heard hit two key 3-pointers, and Amyjah Hardnett nailed seven straight free throws as Gulfport defeated D'Iberville 45-39 Monday night to advance in the Class 6A girls state basketball playoffs.
Gulfport (18-12) will visit Jackson Jim Hill on Friday at 7 p.m. to continue its quest for a state championship.
D'Iberville, the No. 3 team from Division 7-6A, finished its season at 9-17.
Hardnett broke the fourth and final tie in Bert Jenkins Gymnasium with a free throw with 1:11 left in the third quarter to put Gulfport up 23-22.
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Early in the fourth quarter, Tiara Smith converted an old-fashioned three-point play, then Heard, a junior guard, hit her back to back 3's for a 34-26 lead.
Gulfport pushed that lead to 41-32 before D'Iberville rallied in the final minute to cut the lead to 41-37. But Hardnett hit four straight free throws to close out the decision.
Hardnett, a 5-foot-6 sophomore guard, scored 17 points for Gulfport and Heard added 8. Dywana Parker chipped in 7 points.
D'Iberville junior Casey Ferguson paced the Lady Warriors with 19 points, including a pair of treys, and a 7-for-8 showing at the foul line. Amari Carter added 7 points.
"Nishiana Heard hit a couple of big buckets for us, and did a great job on No. 21 (Ferguson)," Gulfport coach Donny Fuller said. "We went to a diamond-and-1 on her and she (Heard) really stepped up."
Gulfport, the No. 2 seed from 8-6A, had to bounce back from a loss to Harrison Central in the division finals.
"We had to put that one behind us and focus on this one,'' Fuller said. "Coming into tonight, we were two wins from the state tournament and now we are one. We go to Jim Hill Friday and I know they are tough, but we are in there now."
A lot of players contributed, said Fuller.
"Ayanna Lombard did a great job because Aarmanii (McDaniel) got in quick foul trouble. She probably didn't play eight minutes tonight and she is our leading scorer and rebounder. Other kids stepped up for us, that was the key."
D'Iberville led 12-9 after the first quarter but Gulfport rebounded for a 19-16 halftime lead.