High School Sports

8-5A basketball action starts Monday at Gautier

 West Harrison's Ameshya Williams grabs a defensive rebound against Harrison Central, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD West Harrison's Ameshya Williams grabs a defensive rebound against Harrison Central, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

While most region basketball tournaments featuring Coast squads get underway on Tuesday, Region 8-5A will be the lone group beginning play on Monday at Gautier High School.

The No. 2 seed Pascagoula girls (22-6) will play No. 3 Long Beach (5-17) at 6 p.m. Monday and the No. 2 seed West Harrison boys (11-15) will play No. 3 Long Beach (9-12) at 7:30 p.m.

The top seeds in 8-5A won't take the court until Tuesday when the West Harrison girls, who are ranked No. 2 on the Coast by the Sun Herald, take on Gautier at 6 p.m.

The No. 1 seed Pascagoula boys, who are ranked No. 1 on the Coast, will play Gautier at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The West Harrison girls (20-2) will likely face its stiffest challenge in the region tournament from Pascagoula, which it beat 56-42 and 60-47 in a pair of contests this season.

West Harrison relies on senior center Ameshya Williams, who has averaged 25.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks this season as one of the most dominant female post players in the state.

However, West Harrison can only make a run deep in the postseason if it gets significant contributions from other players.

"I feel like we're playing really well," West Harrison coach Otis Gates said. "I feel like we played really well Friday against Pass Christian. We had a lot of people contributing. That's been happening more lately. We're headed in the right direction."

Gates pointed to three senior guards who are playing better basketball of late - Vin'Sha Hatcher, Gerriana Williams and Amari Graves.

"They've all stepped up and are making shots," Gates said. "We've also got to continue to play pretty good defense."

Hatcher is averaging 7.3 points a game this season and Graves is pitching in 6.8 points a contest.

While the West Harrison girls are the heavy favorite to win the 8-5A tournament, Gates doesn't want to see his girls taking anything for granted.

"I think everybody we play can challenge us," Gates said. "I don't take anybody for granted. It's one game at a time. If we have an off night shooting or commit fouls, anything can happen."

The Pascagoula boys (21-4) have won 11 straight games headed into the region tournament.

The Panthers have achieved their recent success by getting production from all key players, including the senior frontcourt duo Jacques Belford and Illyan Scott. Both players have played key roles for the Panthers the last three years and that experience is showing this season.

Belford is averaging 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds while Scott is contributing 9.1 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Senior guard Darius Johnson is Pascagoula's best threat to score in the backcourt with an average of 9.5 points a game. He has made 52 of 149 3-pointers this season as the team's top outside shooter.

The Region 8-5A tournament will be played Monday, Tuesday and Friday at Gautier.