The Gulfport-Harrison Central basketball rivalry rarely disappoints and Friday night was no different with an intense doubleheader.
The Gulfport girls picked up a huge win under first-year head coach Brooke Glass while the Harrison Central boys kept the momentum rolling after last week’s victory in the Adidas Holiday Classic.
The Sun Herald No. 2 Harrison Central boys held Gulfport to 1 point in the final 5 minutes to rally for a 63-54 win behind 18 second-half points from senior guard Dajon Whitworth.
Whitworth failed to score in the first half when foul trouble forced him to the bench early, but he stayed on the court for much of the second half and overcame the slow start.
“Dajon is going to do well all the time he plays,” Harrison Central coach Boo Hardy said. “He made some big plays down the stretch to get this win.”
Gulfport (8-8, 0-2) scored first in the third quarter on a basket by senior guard Juan Irias to give the Admirals a 49-41 lead with 6:56 remaining, but the Gulfport offense dried up down the stretch.
The Red Rebels outscored Gulfport 22-5 the rest of the way to earn a win over their rival for the second consecutive week.
“Anytime we play, it’s going to be intense,” Hardy said. “It was a great atmosphere for basketball. Both teams are from the same city so they’re going to play hard anytime we play against each other.”
Hardy pointed to the play of senior guard Kalen Means on the defensive end. He was tasked with slowing down Irias who had 24 points total, including 18 in the first half.
“(Irias) hurt us in the first half,” Hardy said. “He knocked down 3’s and got to the basket. We decided to put Kalen on him and he was supposed to shadow him wherever he goes.
“You’ve got to give Kalen Means a lot of credit. He’s a kid that doesn’t care whether or not he scores, but he’s going to do a great job on defense.”
Senior forward Dayquan Perkins had another big night in the post, battling for much of the game with Gulfport junior Derick Hall. Perkins finished with 17 points while Hall contributed eight.
“We had a very big crowd tonight like we expected,” Perkins said. “It makes the game so much funner.
“We played together and stepped it up on defense. Defense wins games.”
Harrison Central next plays host to Sun Herald No. 1 Biloxi, which is undefeated at 18-0 after thumping Pearl 69-45 Friday night, on Jan. 12.
Gulfport girls 47, Harrison Central 38: In one of the biggest upsets of the season, the Lady Admirals hit the court hot in the second half after trailing 20-16 at halftime.
Gulfport scored the first 9 points of the second half and led 25-20 at the 5:25 mark of the third quarter.
Harrison Central, which is the Sun Herald’s No. 1 girls team, managed to answer with a 6-0 run to regain the advantage at 26-25 with 2:29 left in the third quarter, but that was final lead of the game for the Red Rebelettes (9-4, 1-1).
The Lady Admirals had a raucous celebration in the locker room after the game.
“It’s awesome,” Glass said. “They’re an incredible team and (coach) Nancy (Ladner) does a great job. For us to come in their home gym, it’s incredible.”
Senior forward Whitney Johnson scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half to help spur Gulfport’s late surge.
“Whitney is one of the best athletes we’ve ever seen,” Glass said. “When she plays confident, nobody can stop her.”
Gulfport kept up the pressure on both ends in the second half and Harrison Central had no answer down the stretch.
“We knew they were going to press on us so we were going to take it back at them,” Glass said. “We were going to beat them at their own game.”
Jerkia McInnis added 10 points for Gulfport (10-5, 1-1), including a pair of late 3-pointers to finish off the victory.
Chyna Allen led Harrison Central (9-4, 1-1) with 12 points and Yolanda Nelson pitched in 11.