This year marked the 30th year of action for the Gulfport Admiral Hardwood Classic and the host Admirals used a dominating first half performance to take home the title with a 50-44 win over Pascagoula.
Entering the tournament many expected the Admirals, ranked no. 3 in our Magnoliaprep.com team rankings, to be in the finals, but many expected it to be against Wayne County, ranked no. 5 or Madison Central, ranked 13th. Pascagoula, which was ranked 10th in our preseason rankings, entered the tournament with only a 5-6 record, including two previous blowout losses to Gulfport, but they played the first part of the season without a number of key players who were members of the Panthers football team which played in the state championship game. The Panthers, however, seem to be ready to hit their stride as they knocked off both Madison Central and Wayne County on back-to-back nights to get to the championship game.
The wear and tear of three games in three nights against top competition showed early for the Panthers as they struggled to score in the opening period of the game. The Admirals had no such troubles as they came out with solid execution to take a 10-2 lead just over three minutes in. The Admirals closed the quarter with an 18-8 lead as the Panthers were able to find the bottom of the nets only three times in the quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same as the Admirals opened the quarter with a 11-1 run to open a 29-9 lead with three and a half minutes left in the quarter before settling for a 33-14 halftime lead.
To the Panthers credit they came out and played hard in the second half while the Admirals seemed ready to get to their post game celebration as Pascagoula was able to get the lead down to 15 by the end of the third and then opened the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run to cut the lead to 46-41 with just over four minutes left in the game. At that point back-to-back of baskets by the Admirals opened the lead back up to nine and both teams went cold at that point as only three more points were scored the rest of the game, none in the final 3:39.
For the Admirals it was a balanced scoring attack with Otis Harvey scoring 12, Jahshire Hardnett scored 11, Jevon Floyd scored 9, Tim Barron scored 8 and Jamal Jones scored 7. Pascagoula was led by Prince McDaniel with 15 points, Paul Plainer with 10 and Brandon Rich with 9.
Taking the championship combined with other result over the holiday period positions Gulfport to take the top spot in the next Magnoliapreps.com rankings that will be out later this week. When asked his thoughts on his team's probable no. 1 ranking, Admiral coach Owen Miller had this to say, "We're just trying to get better every game. If we can keep improving hopefully we can finish that way, we've got a long way to go."