Noel Jones drained a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to lift Pascagoula past Gulfport 49-48 under new coach Lorenzo Wright in the basketball season opener for both teams Thursday.
Wright, a former Gulfport High standout, replaced Ronald Norman, who left in June to become the Meridian coach.
“It feels great to get the first win,” said Wright, who came to Pascagoula after coaching at D’Iberville. “I did not have a summer with the team. We are still learning to trust each other. We still have a lot of work to do. But when you beat a quality team like Gulfport, it shows you have a good, quality team yourself.”
Gulfport coach Owen Miller said Wright is “going to do some outstanding things here”
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“He coached for me for two years and we went to a couple Final Fours,” Miller said. “He’s an excellent coach.”
Behind Jones, who scored 12 points through three quarters, and Jayden McCorvey, who scored eight points early, the Panthers built a 33-27 lead with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
However, Gulfport came back with a 7-0 run with Daquaris McCord’s layup with 1:37 left giving the Admirals a 34-33 lead.
“I was proud of my team for coming back,” said Miller. “We had some players playing in the fourth quarter who had never been on the court in a varsity basketball game.”
The Admirals extended their lead to four twice, the last time on a McCord trey with 1:17 left for a 48-44 lead.
Pascagoula came back behind an Eric Smith jumper. Two missed Gulfport free throws with 49 seconds left and a DeQuan Witherspoon rebound led to Jones’ 3-pointer that gave Pascagoula its final lead at 49-48.
The Admirals had one last shot, but missed a 3-pointer. Witherspoon came up with is second rebound in the final minute to preserve the Panthers’ win.
“That’s what Pascagoula does,” Wright said. “We had several guys who stepped up late and made several plays.”
Miller found some positives from the defeat.
“We will look at the film and take some good things out of this game,” he said.
Jones paced Pascagoula with 15 points, Witherspoon finished with 11 and McCorvey had 10.
Miles Daniels led Gulfport with 22 points.
“I’m really pleased with his performance tonight,” Miller said. “He carried us for a lot of this game. He’s going to have a very good year.”
Gulfport girls 42, Pascagoula 38: Gulfport coach Donny Fuller wanted to limit Pascagoula star Jailin Cherry and the Lady Admirals did just that.
“We knew she was a great player,” Fuller said. “We knew she could beat us. We wanted to see if someone else on Pascagoula could beat us.”
Cherry, who plans to sign with LSU next week, scored four in the first quarter as the Panthers opened a 13-9 lead. However, the Lady Admirals didn’t let Cherry score again until late in the game.
Switching from man to a zone helped the Lady Admirals.
“The switch got it to where they couldn’t get shots in the lane,” he said.
First-year Pascagoula coach Crisla Herchenhahn, who took over after the retirement of Carolyn Whitehead, felt the loss came down to missing free throws and layups.
“You have to hit free throws and layups, especially at the end of the game,” she said. “You can’t miss lay-ups against a good team.”
Gulfport entered the final four minutes of the fourth quarter nursing a 41-33 lead on a pair of Dywanna Parker baskets.
Cherry cut the lead to six with a short jumper with 3:50 left to play. Despite the Lady Admirals going just 1-of-6 from the free throw line and missing all four of their shots from the field, the Lady Panthers couldn’t get any closer. They hit only one free throw down the stretch and did not score another basket until Cherry’s layup with nine seconds left.
“We’ve got to get better,” Fuller said. “We have a tough schedule this year.”
Whitney Johnson led all scorers with 17 for the Lady Admirals. Parker added eight points.
Alexis McBeath led Pascagoula with 15 points. Cherry scored eight points