GAUTIER – Quieran Gray scored eight of his game-high 16 points in the final four minutes of the game to lift West Harrison to a 34-20 win over Long Beach in the opening round of the Class 5A Region 8 boys basketball tournament Monday.
The Hurricanes (12-15) will meet the winner of Tuesday’s game between Gautier and Pascagoula (21-4), which tips off at 7:30, in the tournament finals Friday. Long Beach (9-13) will meet the loser of the Gators (9-14) and Panthers game in the consolation game Friday.
“We are in the playoffs and we are guaranteed a home game,” said West Harrison coach Milton Ray, who noted the Hurricanes lost their last home game, getting beat by St. Martin 57-50 Feb. 5. “We get a second chance to finish at home with a win.”
For most of the game it appeared the cold front that moved through South Mississippi blew down covers over the nets at Gautier’s gym. Although the Bearcats could manage only nine points through three quarters – four points combined in the second and third quarters – West Harrison wasn’t much better scoring only 20 points through the first 24 minutes of play.
Ray, though, said the object of Monday’s game wasn’t to put a lot of points on the board, but prevent Long Beach from scoring.
“We didn’t care if we didn’t shoot the ball well,” he said. “We cared if we stopped them from shooting the ball well. I told my players that if we didn’t score 50 points and won by one that would be ok.
“We had a great defensive effort tonight. They bought into playing defense tonight.”
Behind six points from Tim Lacey and a trey from D.D. Cook, the Bearcats made the first move in the fourth quarter, cutting West Harrison’s 11-point advantage to six points, 24-18, with a little over four minutes to play.
With the game on the line, Gray took over scoring eight points in the final four minutes, sparking a 10-0 Hurricanes run that pushed the West Harrison advantage back into the double-digit range. With 33 seconds left, two Gray free throws put an end to any Long Beach thoughts of victory, stretching the West Harrison lead to 16, 34-18.
Only five players scored for West Harrison, with D’Anthony Bowie adding seven points for the Hurricanes. Gabriel Barber scored only five points in the game, but had a strong night off the boards with 10 rebounds. Gray added six rebounds.
Lacey led four scoring Bearcats with 10 points. Cook knocked down a trey in the first quarter as well to finish second on the Long Beach books with six points.