The Gulfport basketball team owned the first 8 minutes or so of Saturday night’s title game versus Biloxi in the Adidas Holiday Classic.
For the next 24 minutes, Biloxi gradually asserted itself as the No. 1 team on the Coast.
Biloxi topped Gulfport 54-46 Saturday night at Bert Jenkins Gymnasium to claim the tournament title, relying on 17 points from senior Jariyon Wilkens to help close out the victory.
The Indians improved to 16-0 by beating the Admirals on their home court for the second time this season. Biloxi can go for the three-game sweep when it hosts Gulfport on Jan. 18.
“Oh, that’s hard,” Wilkens said of his team’s second win at Gulfport. “I feel like we live for games like this.”
Biloxi coach Seber Windham acknowledged that he can’t remember many times that his squad has beaten the arch rival Admirals on their home court twice in the same season.
“Hats off to them guys over there,” Windham said of Owen Miller’s Gulfport squad. “They’re a first class program. We know how hard it is to come over here. We’re thankful for them to just invite us over here. We hope this is our first step to the district tournament and then moving on to Jackson.”
While Biloxi accepted the championship trophy, the Admirals remained on their bench to watch the presentation while Miller spoke to his players.
“I was telling them to take this in,” Miller said. “That’s where we want to be. We’ve got 10 of our top 12 who will be back. We’re trying to get where they are right now. They’ve earned it. They’ve come in and beat us. This is a hard tournament to win. I want them to respect what they did and see them go out there and get that trophy and imagine yourself doing that. You’ve got to believe it before you can actually do it.”
Gulfport (15-4) hit the court running and built a 16-4 lead at the 1:35 mark of the first quarter with six different Admirals providing baskets.
The Indians countered with a 13-3 run, but Gulfport still held the the 27-22 lead at the half.
In third quarter, momentum was squarely on the Biloxi bench.
“That’s where they really made a push,” Miller said. “They kind of did the same things they did in the fourth quarter (in the previous game) and I thought we were a little more prepared for it. We just had a couple of breakdowns on some ways we wanted to handle one of their patterns. They also beat us up on the backboards, got a lot of second shots.
“We had nine turnovers in the third quarter after we had seven at halftime. They were able to get out in transition and get some easy ones. When they get a lead like that on you, it’s hard. They handle the ball and they can all pass.”
Gulfport held a 34-30 lead with 3:38 left in the third quarter before Biloxi went on a 9-0 run to take a 43-34 advantage with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Wilkens had a run where he scored 10 consecutive points, capped by a lay-up to give the Indians a 47-37 lead with 3:13 remaining.
“He got in foul trouble early so we had to sit him out,” Windham said. “We feel like he’s a second half type of guy. He likes big moments and he really stepped up big for us tonight.”
Gulfport managed just seven points in the fourth quarter with Windham’s squad doing a good job of holding onto the ball for lengthy stretches of time.
“It’s important that we know how to take care of the ball down the stretch,” he said. “That will be important for us.”
Senior Roshaun Jones had nine important points for Biloxi with seven of them coming in the first half to help keep the Indians within striking distance at half time.
Gulfport junior guard Omar Christian, who had a season high of 20 points against Picayune on Friday, led the Admirals with 14 points on Saturday.
Pascagoula 70, Corinth 53: Senior guard Jayden McCorvey scored 37 points to help the Panthers (9-7) pick up their first win of the tournament.
Long Beach 68, Picayune 62: Sophomore Davion Henry scored 20 points to lead the Bearcats (11-4) to their second win of the tournament.
Vestavia Hills 53, Harrison Central 40: Carlos Williams led the Red Rebels (7-10) with 12 points.