by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

Intensity was in the gymnasium Friday night as the Long Beach Bearcats and the West Harrison Hurricanes split the girls and boys basketball decisions Friday night in their opening district matchup. After the dust was settled in both games, the Lady Bearcats won 42-37 while the ‘Canes won the boys’ game 57-54.

Although they remained fierce rivals from “across the interstate,” this game in the Gulfport gymnasium was the first district game since the 2018-2019 school year because of West Harrison High School moving up athletics classifications during the time period.

GIRLS:  Long Beach 42 West Harrison 37

The Lady Bearcats jumped out to an early lead during the first half behind two 3-pointers from Long Beach Guard Caiya Brown and a 21-18 lead.  The game was never separated by more than five points, but the Lady Bearcats outscored the Lady ‘Canes in both halves.

“I thought we had a great start, as I was telling the girls that basketball is a game of runs,” said Long Beach Girls Head Basketball Coach Chris Odom.  “I have a lot of respect for West Harrison, their coaching staff, and the job they have done coming in this year for the first time.  We had a really good offensive showing by (Caiya) Brown as she had a lot of points and we won our first district game.”

Brown led the Lady Bearcats (5-12, 1-0) with 20 points and four 3-pointers and Long Beach Senior Guard Marlana Moore had nine points.  Madison Collins finished with 15 points for West Harrison.

BOYS:  West Harrison 57 Long Beach 54

Similarly to the girls, the Bearcats came out of the gates with forward Kevonta Preston scoring twelve points and Long Beach knocking down three 3-pointers during the first period for a 19-16 lead.

This woke up the ‘Canes at “The Eye of the Storm” gymnasium, where the team outpaced the Bearcats 21-12 in the period and 37-31 halftime lead.

Long Beach close the gap defensively during the third period by holding the ‘Canes to only 5 points and Bearcats Point Guard Christian Spencer knocking down a three point basket to tie the game, but West Harrison hung on to a two-point lead at the end of the period.

Just like the first half, ‘Canes Senior Guard Uriel Nichols converted two consecutive 3-pointers and other teammates secured the victory with a few free throws during the last minute for a 57-54 victory in the packed gym.

“There is not a bunch of experience on my team and I’m pretty sure Long Beach is the same way.  This is what you saw in the game, some great play and then some with some mishaps,” said West Harrison Head Basketball Coach Jerious Norwood.  “I was proud of my guys that we kept fighting and got it done.”

Both basketball teams will play Tuesday night on the road with West Harrison playing against district opponent Picayune Memorial High School and Long Beach against non-district rival, St. Martin at 6pm.