Two of the best juniors on the Coast took the court at Bert Jenkins Gymnasium Tuesday night in a game to decide which team will advance to the second round of the playoffs — Gulfport or Ocean Springs.
With a season high of 22 points, Gulfport junior point guard Deon Drake sparked his team to a 63-50 victory over the Greyhounds to set up Saturday’s 7 p.m. road game at Brandon in the second round of the postseason.
Thirteen of Drake’s points came in the first quarter as the Admirals jumped out to a 15-2 lead and led 21-11 after one quarter.
“He played really well,” Gulfport coach Owen Miller said. “He’s had a real good year for us. He’s one of our better shooters and he stepped up big for us.”
Drake entered the game averaging 8.9 points a game.
Ocean Springs was led by 19 points from Darien Wallace, who put together a solid junior season of his own with averages of 15 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Wallace and Drake have played in the same backcourt before, but it was all business between the two Friday night.
“He’s my old AAU teammate,” Drake said. “I know what he does. He’s my friend outside the court, but on the court I don’t know you.
“He’s just another guy, just like me.”
Drake’s biggest shot of the night was likely a 3-pointer at the end of the first half that pushed the Gulfport lead back to 32-24 after the 5-foot-10 Wallace came up with a basket to cut the Gulfport lead to 5 points with 42 seconds left in the half.
Gulfport’s early advantage proved too much to overcome for the Greyhounds, who finished 12-15.
“It’s hard to simulate what Gulfport does in practice,” Ocean Springs coach Matt Noblitt said. “They’re full speed from the tip to the buzzer.”
Also in double digits for Gulfport were Omar Christian with 12 and Nate Hudson with 10.
Gulfport (22-7) can earn its most impressive win of the season on Friday if it can find a way to take down Brandon, which is 25-5. The Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-3 junior guard Jaque’vias Tarvin, who is averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.
“We have to rebound and take care of the basketball,” Miller said. “If we do those two things we have a chance to make a little run here.”
Gulfport needs to win two more games to clinch a spot in the Class 6A Final Four in Jackson and Drake is confident his team has been building up to this point.
“I can feel a rush,” the 5-foot-6 junior said. “I’m excited.”
Harrison Central 74, St. Martin 66: Six-foot-6 sophomore Carlos Williams put up a double-double of 25 points and 16 rebounds as the Red Rebels (15-15) advanced to play at Oak Grove at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Tuesday’s win was one more example of a young Harrison Central team picking up its play late in the season.
“At one point, I was starting a junior, one senior, two sophomores and one freshman,” Harrison Central coach Boo Hardy said Tuesday. “They’re kind of getting a little seasoning. They’re athletes that have moved onto the next class. They’re not ninth graders and 10th graders anymore.”
Freshman Javier Simmons also reached double digits with 15 points and Jacobi Moore had nine for Harrison Central.
St. Patrick 57, Loyd Star 45: Jay Parker scored 28 and Windfield Swetman added 14 as the Fighting Irish (22-6) won on the road. St. Patrick will play at Heidelberg at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Class 2A playoffs.
North Pike 65, Stone High 63: Stone High’s Cortez McCarty scored 18 points in an overtime contest, but the Tomcats’ season came to a close with a record of 19-9.
Picayune 51, West Harrison 44: The Maroon Tide (19-11) will travel to play at Wayne County at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Class 5A playoffs.
Bay High 58, Poplarville 46: Bay High (17-12) will host Florence at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Class 4A playoffs.
Forrest County AHS 51, Moss Point 39: The Tigers’ season comes to an end at 13-16.
Lawrence County 62, Pass Christian 48: The Pirates’ season finishes at 8-21.
St. Stanislaus 43, Greene County 41: The Rockachaws advance to host Raymond at 7 p.m. on Saturdya.