Jytireus Smith scored five points off the bench as Gulfport edged Gautier 28-26 at the Mike Perkins Super Saturday Shootout at St. Martin.
Gautier held a 15-14 lead. With four minutes left in the third quarter, Smith hit a bucket and was fouled, converting the free throw to put Gulfport on top 17-15. A minute later, he hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 19-15.
“He gave us a big spark in the middle of the quarter,” said Gulfport coach Owen Miller. “We really needed that at the time.”
Gulfport held the lead the rest of the game, but Gautier stayed within striking distance.
With 3:10 left to play, Gautier’s Fred Miller hit one of two free throws to bring the Gators to within one, 27-26. However, Miller decided to freeze the game and Gautier coach Keith McQueen, playing for the last shot, allowed Gulfport to freeze the ball until a minute was left on the clock.
McQueen’s gamble almost paid off as Gulfport took a shot with 44 seconds left. Nick Steele grabbed the rebound for the upset-minded Gators and pushed the ball downcourt. Although Gautier would manage to get two shots off within the last 24 seconds, both missed the mark, allowing Gulfport to escape with the win.
“We were fortunate to get the win today,” Miller said. “It’s beautiful the way Gautier plays. McQueen has a unique way of defending and they execute his game. They like to control the tempo, and they did tonight. You have to be very patient attacking them. It can be very frustrating to a team like us. But, you have to pay through the frustration. You have to be disciplined and patient.”
McQueen believed free throws were the difference. If Gautier shot only 50 percent from the field, they beat Gulfport. The Gators were only 6-of-18 from the charity stripe, 1-of-7 in the second half.
“When we play defense the way we can, we can play with anyone,” McQueen said. “But, we have to make our free throws if we are going to win the game.”
Trey Jones led Gulfport with eight points and Juan Irias finished with seven points. Smith finished with five points.
DeOnta Lawler led Gautier with a game-high 11 points, but scored only four points after the break.
In other games:
Long Beach 57, Pass Christian 44: Chris Belino scored 23 points, Calvin Johnson added 18 to lead the Bearcats. Joshua Lambert and Kobie Williams finished with 13 points each to pace the Pirates.
Petal girls 58, Gautier 22: Myla Cox scored 25 points and Tadyanna Pittman 18 as Petal made quick work of Gautier.