The Gulfport boys turned a tight contest into a decisive 64-46 win over Long Beach Wednesday night on the first day of the Gulfport Hardwood Holiday Classic at Bert Jenkins Gymnasium.
Gulfport's Juan Irias hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Admirals close out the contest and advance to face Harrison Central in the tournament semifinals.
Irias finished with a team high of 15 points.
“I think we missed our first 12 threes,” Gulfport coach Owen Miller said. “We were 0-for-10 coming in at the half. We missed our first two in the second half and Juan made a three there in the third and had five total in the second half. That changed the game for us.”
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Irias, a junior, has filled in well at the two-guard this season and his hot hand in the second half Wednesday proved to be the turning point as the Admirals improved to 9-5.
“He's got 26 charges already on the year,” Miller said. “He's our toughest kid and he can make shots. He's limited physically with his size, but he's got a heart as big as this building. He's our morale guy. He gets a loose balls and he can really shoot the ball. He spends a lot of time outside of practice in the gym. It's good to see him get rewarded like he was tonight.”
Senior guard Keevon Oney added nine points for the Admirals.
Junior center Jaidon Evans had a nice night in the paint for Long Beach (6-6) with a team high of 14 points. Senior guard Darren Cook added 12 points for the Bearcats.
“They're a good basketball team,” Long Beach coach Joel Boone said of Gulfport. “I thought we played the heck out of them for a long time. We can play better. We're getting better, I can say that.”
Long Beach led 9-8 at the 2:35 mark of the first quarter, but the Admirals rebounded to take a 23-17 advantage at halftime thanks to 7 second-quarter points from Oney.
Long Beach rebounded in the third quarter and took a 30-29 lead on a free throw by Monta Davis at the 3:41 mark.
Gulfport answered with an 11-4 run to lead 40-34 after three quarters.
Long Beach will play West Harrison at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Harrison Central 59, West Harrison 47: The Red Rebels had three different players score in double digits as they advanced to face Gulfport at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the semifinals.
Dajon Whitworth led the way with 16 points. Anthony Barnett and Daquan Perkins both added 15 points.
Harrison Central (9-2) started out hot from the field, but West Harrison rebounded to cut the lead to 31-21 at the half. The Red Rebels kept the Hurricanes at an arm's length the rest of the way, leading 47-36 after three quarters.
Quieran Gray led all scorers with 21 points for West Harrison (3-8).