Just as the host Admirals started to close the gap in the waning minutes, Pascagoula coach Lorenzo Wright gathered his players around him and reminded them of his halftime message: Keep it simple.
The late pep talk must have sunk in because the Panthers scored the game’s final six points to hold on and top Gulfport 64-56 at Bert Jenkins Gymnasium.
“They were trying to make the heroic plays, the ‘hero ball’ plays. We did it a little in the first half,” Wright said. “We just need to keep it simple, keep moving the ball, don’t force the action and let the play come to you. Stop trying to force it and go one-on-one. Just do what works.
“When we finally got it working, it was because we were moving the ball on offense.”
Eric Smith led PHS (4-3) with 20 points, including four made 3-pointers, while D’yasmond Booker and Jonas Burley added 15 and 14 points respectively.
Wright was especially pleased to see Burley and Smith knock down shots together as it’s apparently a rarity for the Panthers.
“Both of those guys are guys we can count on. If they can have good nights together we’re going to be really tough to guard,” Wright said. “Even if one of them is on it helps us open up the floor because they can both shoot it really well.
“This is actually the first night in the two years I’ve been here where they made shots together. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.”
Conversely, Gulfport coach Owen Miller was left frustrated by parts of his team’s game Tuesday. With a number of sophomores playing big minutes, the Admirals (3-3) turned the ball over 21 times.
“A lot of them were live ball turnovers, ones that lead to easy, uncontested layups,” Miller said. “That’s our Achilles heel right now.”
The two teams were close through the first quarter, with ‘Goula holding a slim 16-12 advantage at the first buzzer. Pascagoula opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run, to take a 25-12 lead.
“They just really beat us up on the glass,” Miller said. “I thought they were a lot more physical than we were. They have an excellent team.”
Gulfport did close the gap to 31-25 by halftime and actually took a very brief 34-33 lead in the third quarter before Pascagoula pulled away late.
“We just don’t understand what we have to do to win a hard game,” Miller said.
Chad Crenshaw led GHS with a season-high 12 points.
“We just got him back from football. He had a good night,” Miller said. “He’s awfully quick and he’s still finding his rhythm. He can get it at the rim and made some good plays defensively.”
Jytireus Smith added nine points for the Admirals.
Gulfport girls 65, Pascagoula 36
Gulfport's girls topped their season's high water scoring mark by five and just missed their best defensive effort by two points in defeating Pascagoula 65-36.
Both teams were deadlocked early 4-4 before GHS (5-2) scored 10 unanswered points and never looked back.
“This week we really worked on pushing the ball in transition, getting the ball at the net, pushing it and running the floor hard,” GHS coach Brooke Glass said. “I feel like that's an advantage we can have over our opponents.”
GHS extended its lead to 33-11 in the second quarter by holding the Panthers (0-3) scoreless until the 2:50 mark. The Lady Admirals only ended up allowing seven points in the frame to take a 39-16 lead into halftime.
“We worked a lot on changing defenses and keeping the other team off balance,” Glass said. “Every made basket we were trying to change it up and show them something different. The team did a very good job of adjusting to that.”
Dywana Parker scored a game-high 20 points for GHS. Jerkia McInnis added 10.
Kristin Dawson led PHS with 10 points. Tyesha Turner also scored seven.
Gulfport returns to the court Friday for a road trip to Meridian. Pascagoula will host Faith Academy out of Mobile.