By Hunter Dawkins
The Gazebo Gazette
LONG BEACH — The West Harrison Lady Hurricanes played without their star against their cross-town, Exit 28 rival Thursday night but neither really mattered as Lady Canes beat Long Beach 48-23 for the Region 7-5A Championship.
After West Harrison Senior Taylor Hopgood went down with an injury on Tuesday, the Lady Hurricanes had an uphill battle despite being undefeated overall in district action . With a first-period 17-3 advantage against the Lady Bearcats in the Long Beach High School Gymnasium, West Harrison freshman guard Sydnei Barber knocked down a three-point basket and scored 10 points during the opening period.
“I’m really happy we stepped up to the occasion,” said West Harrison Head Girls Basketball Coach Patty Norwood. “It was a big hole to fill with Taylor gone and they didn’t lose a beat and I couldn’t ask for more.”
Following a 16-point lead at halftime, the Lady Hurricanes made the game unreachable for Long Beach with a 39-17 lead after three quarters on consecutive field goals from sophomore forward Jalynn Applewhite. The Lady Bearcats only scored two more buckets the rest of the game and West Harrison secured the league championship.
The Lady Hurricanes were led by Barber with 18 points and Applewhite had 17. Shania Hope finished with eight points for Long Beach and no one else had more than five.
Despite not playing in the championship game, Hopgood was named the District 7-5A Most Valuable Player.
Jackie White-Martin of Long Beach Girls Basketball was named Coach of the Year for District 7-5A during her first year leading the Lady Bearcats to a runner-up in the district and the chance to host a first-round opponent.
“West Harrison went to their strength tonight, which is rebounding on both ends and they got a lot of second or third chances,” expressed White-Martin. “I wanted to open up the girls’ IQ in basketball this year and to strategize more against other teams.”
West Harrison gets a first-round bye in the Class 5A state playoffs and will face an as-of-yet-undetermined opponent Friday at home while Long Beach will host Natchez High Tuesday night at 6 pm.
In the consolation game, Pearl River Central faced longtime arch-rival Picayune for the third time this season and for the third time as well in the current campaign the Lady Blue Devils dispatched theLady Tide this time 58-36 to qualify for the state playoffs as well as the third seed out of the region.
The Pearl River Central girls will open the Class 5A state playoffs aon the road at Brookhaven Monday night while Picayune’s season comes to an end with the loss.