GAUTIER -- Otis Gates showed off the depth of his bench Tuesday as 11 West Harrison players scored to lift the Hurricanes to a 45-14 win over Gautier in the opening round of the Region 8-5A girls basketball tournament.
The win puts West Harrison (21-2) in the championship game against Pascagoula (23-6) on Friday with a 7 p.m. tip. The Lady Panthers advanced to the finals Monday, beating Long Beach 65-27. The winner of the championship game will receive a first-round bye and host a second-round game. The loser will open the first round at home.
The Lady Bearcats (5-17) will meet Gautier (2-18) in the consolation game Friday, with a 4 p.m. tip. The winner of the consolation game will travel in the first round while the loser's season will end.
"We wanted to be consistent tonight on offense and defense," Gates said. "I think we did that tonight."
Gates said it was important for him to get a large number of players into the game.
"For us to be successful in the playoffs we are going to have to a lot more people scoring than Ameshya Williams," he said.
Gautier coach Fred Williams said his team ran into a very good team in the Lady Hurricanes, although he said he thought the Lady Gators did a good job holding Williams in check. Williams led West Harrison with 10 points, but did not play in the final quarter.
Turning his thoughts toward Pascagoula, Gates said the Lady Hurricanes needed to keep Jailin Cherry in check. West Harrison swept the season series against the Panthers.
"She is a great offensive player," Gates said. "Of course, she has a great supporting cast around her as well."
In addition to stopping Cherry, Gates said the Hurricanes need to be consistent on defense and 'we have to execute our offense."
Pascagoula coach Carolyn Whitehead said defending Williams was key for the Panthers Friday. "Everything they do revolves around her," she said.
She also said the Panthers needed to keep West Harrison off balance. "We are going to try to throw a lot of different looks at them."
For Gautier, Williams said a key to getting past Long Beach on Friday is confidence. While the Lady Bearcats swept the season series, the match in Gautier was close with Long Beach emerging with only a four-point win, 32-28.
"We are a young team," he said. "When something goes wrong, our confidence sometimes goes away."
On Monday, Long Beach coach Janet Nash said the Lady Bearcats are "going to have to play together as a team if we are going to advance."
Nash noted Long Beach has two wins already over Gautier this year. "We feel if we can come together as a team, we are very confident of our chances Friday."
In addition to the girls games, the boys consolation game tips off Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Long Beach meeting the loser of Tuesday's Pascagoula-Gautier opening round game. The boys championship game has a scheduled tip of 8:30 p.m. and will feature West Harrison against the winner of the Pascagoula-Gautier first round game.
Pascagoula 32, Gautier 25: Jacques Belford and Paris Weathersby hit two free throws each in the final two minutes as Pascagoula outlasted Gautier 32-25 Tuesday to advance to the Region 8-5A tournament finals Friday.
Pascagoula (22-4) will play West Harrison (12-15), which beat Long Beach 34-20, in the finals. Tip is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Gautier (10-15) will meet the Bearcats (9-13) at 5:30 p.m. in the consolation game. The winner will advance to the first round of the Mississippi playoffs while the loser will end their season.
"It's win or shut it down," said Gautier coach Keith McQueen. "Win Friday and you are in the playoffs."
Pascagoula led 23-16 at the half.
"Gautier makes you play a deliberate game," said Pascagoula coach Ron Norman, who said the Gators disciplined zone defense forced offenses to be patient with the ball. "When we got the lead, we spread it out and tried to make them come out and defend us. We spread it out and made the plays we needed to win."
Norman admitted Gautier forced the Panthers to play an offensive style they were not familiar with, leading to the low score.
"Having to play a different style to win will help us in the playoffs," Norman said. "Every time we play a different style helps us."
Norman said he was not concerned with the score, only with getting the win.
"This time of year it's about winning and advancing," he said. "It's not about how pretty it is, or how much you score. We won and we get to go to the next round."
McQueen said Gautier "played about as good as we can. We defended pretty good, but we had some unforced turnovers that hurt us. You have to give them all the credit."
Belford led Pascagoula with seven points and 10 rebounds. Darius Johnson was the only other Panther with five or more points, hitting two 3-pointers to finish with six points.
Mike McWilliams led the Gators with nine points, but did not score in the second half. D.J. Johnson scored eight for Gautier, including five of the Gator's second-half points.