GAUTIER-- Pascagoula used a strong defensive effort, beating West Harrison 49-32 to win the Region 8-5A tournament Friday at Gautier. The Panthers capture their sixth consecutive Region 8-5A championship, the third straight under coach Ron Norman.
With the win, Pascagoula receives a bye in the first round and will not play again until Saturday at home. West Harrison will open the state playoffs Tuesday.
"It's important that we play at home," Norman said. "You lose, you go home. You win, you go to state. "I love it. It's all about the players. They are buying into the way I want them to play. Every night it's a different player stepping up."
For West Harrison, Tuesday's first round game gives the Hurricanes a chance to get some momentum going into the second round.
"We have to put this game behind us," said West Harrison coach Milton Ray. "We play well at home. We couldn't find any offense," Ray said. We were very cold. Pascagoula did a good job on defense."
The Panthers (23-4) carried an 18-13 lead into the half and put the game away with a 13-6 run over the third quarter behind five points, including a trey, from Darius Johnson and four points from Illyan Scott. The run gave Pascagoula a 12 point lead going into the final quarter, with the Hurricanes (12-16) not being able to cut the Panthers lead back to single digits the rest of the game.
"We turned the ball over several times after the half," Ray said. "I told the players at the half that the only way we could lose the game was to turn the ball over and we did that. We couldn't get over the hump."
Part of the scoring problem faced by the Hurricanes Friday was a stiff Panther defense that held West Harrison under 20 points in each half
"We held their best players to under their season averages," Norman said. "Anytime their best players are not shooting, we are winning even if their other players are scoring. We did a good job of not letting their best players score."
The Hurricanes did not have any players in double figures.Hakeem Wilson and Desmond McDaniel topping the West Harrison scoring chart with seven points each.
Pascagoula was led by Johnson with 13 points, Belford added 12.
West Harrison girls 45, Pascagoula 35: Ameshya Williams scored 33 points, leading the Lady Hurricanes to the Region 8-5A championship.
"She's a force inside," said Lady Hurricanes coach Otis Gates. "When she brings the ball down the court, she's a force outside as well. She handles the ball as well as our guards."
Williams scored all but 12 points for West Harrison (22-2).
"We have players who will step up and score when they need to," Gates said. "We've had other players score before."
Pascagoula had problems shooting the ball, hitting only 2-of-25 3-point shots. Jailin Cherry, one of the Panthers leading scorers, scored 11 points, but only four from the floor.
"We couldn't throw it in the ocean," Pascagoula coach Carolyn Whitehead said. "When (Cherry) doesn't score, it really hurts us."
Williams wants to lead West Harrison Central to a 5A state title.
"I was playing to win," Williams said. "I want to go further than we've gone before. We've been to Jackson and lost. I want to go and win."
Victoria Hunter led Pascagoula with 13 points.