With region play now in full swing across the Coast, a pair of Class 6A contests highlight the schedule Friday night.
No. 8 Harrison Central plays host to rival Gulfport, which is ranked No. 1 by the Sun Herald this week, and No. 2 St. Martin travels to No. 5 D'Iberville for a huge Region 7-6A opener for both squads.
Both games will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday following the girls contests.
A resurgent D'Iberville squad has a chance to make a statement against St. Martin, which enters region play on a three-game losing streak.
The Warriors (13-3) have won eight of their last nine games with senior guard Zach Scales leading the way with an average of 18.9 points a contest.
"I think we're playing pretty good basketball," D'Iberville coach Lorenzo Wright. "We've got young guys getting better, developing and playing with a lot of confidence. I think we're playing pretty good as a unit."
St. Martin (13-4) features the Coast's top scorer in senior guard Stacee St. Julian, who is putting up 23.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
"The challenge is really to find a way to slow down Stacee and find a way to stop (guard Daetran Bivens)," Wright said. "After you do those things, you have to find a way to rebound. St. Martin rebounds very well."
Six-foot-8 senior forward Evan Howard, who will play college basketball at NAIA Xavier-New Orleans, is D'Iberville's top rebounder with averages of 8.8 points and 9.6 boards a game.
Howard will be challenged in the frontcourt by St. Martin senior forward Johnnelius Anderson, who is averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds this season.
Gulfport (12-6) and Harrison Central (9-9, 1-0) meet in the Admirals' Region 8-6A opener less than two weeks after Gulfport beat Harrison Central, 77-68, in the opener of Gulfport Hardwood Holiday Classic.
Gulfport came up short of winning the tournament, losing to Metamora (Ill.) in the title game, but head coach Owen Miller likes where his team is headed.
"We had a good tournament," Miller said. "We didn't play our best game in final against Metamora, but they're an excellent team. We did some good things. I feel good about where we're at right now."
Junior guard Keevon Oney has picked it up on the offensive end for Gulfport recently and leads the team in scoring with an average of 9.1 points a game.
"I think Keevon is playing his best basketball," Miller said. "On our team, he's the best kid at creating his own shot. He's quick, long. He's shooting (56 percent) from the 3-point line. He's shooting at a really good rate and he's really come on scoring the ball.
"We've had six different leading scorers on our team. We do it by committee, but (Oney) is a guy that's stepped up and is giving us 12-15 points a game."
Harrison Central has picked up its play of late, beating Hancock 67-55 on Tuesday to start region play and winning two games in the Gulfport tournament.
Senior guard Biscuit Floyd, a Gulfport transfer, is averaging 17.2 points a game for the Red Rebels.
"We're coming together as a team," Harrison Central sophomore forward Dayquan Perkins said. "We motivate each other when people are down. It's a family."
Miller believes 8-6A will be a difficult group this season with all four teams ranked this week in the Sun Herald Top 10, including Biloxi at No. 3 and Hancock at No. 7.
"It's going to be really hard," Miller said. "You look at Harrison Central, who is good and capable of beating anybody. Biloxi is one of the best teams down here. Hancock is off a good to start. Night in, night out, anybody can beat anybody. In the five years we've been at Gulfport, this is as good as it's been."