By Hunter Dawkins
The Gazebo Gazette
LONG BEACH — In the first round of the Region 7-5A Tournament at Long Beach High School Gymnasium Monday night, the Long Beach Lady Bearcats and the top-seed West Harrison Lady Hurricanes easily beat their opponents to set a championship matchup coming up on Thursday night.
The Lady Bearcats (5-16) clinched their berth to the championship game with a 37-22 win over Pearl River Central Lady Blue Devils followed by the top-seeded West Harrison Lady Hurricanes (19-8) defeating the Picayune Lady Maroon Tide 46-22.
“I think in tonight’s game, we executed our game plan and were disciplined tonight with a solid defensive game plan,” said Long Beach Head Girls Basketball Coach Jackie Martin-White, who is in her first year. “Being at home is always an advantage for the championship game because of the energy in our players.”
Although neither team scored during the third period, Long Beach was never behind for the whole game. Lady Bearcat Guard Kenyah Lacour led Long Beach in scoring with 10 points after knocking down two first-period 3-point baskets. Shania Hope contributed eight points for the Lady Bearcats.
The two teams had split a pair of games during the regular season, with both teams winning on the road including a PRC win at LBHS just last week.
Nia English had 12 points to pace Pearl River Central.
In the Lady Hurricanes game, West Harrison did not allow a single point during the first period and held Picayune to nine points during the first half.
An equal ball distribution helped the Lady Hurricanes maintain the lead throughout the game, as nine players scored points.
After West Harrison’s key player Taylor Hopgood went down in the first period, five players put at least six points up in the team’s offense.
“Well, I thought that we got a little shaken up when Taylor was hurt, but one good thing about it was these players were resilient and fought back,” expressed West Harrison Head Girls Basketball Coach Patty Norwood during her second year coaching the Lady Hurricanes. “It’s always hard to beat a good team (Long Beach) three times and they have given us a run for our money each time. I think it will be a great, competitive game Thursday night.”
Freshman guard Taylor Rae Norwood stepped up in Hopgood’s absence and posted a game-high 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals in an outstanding overall performance. Sophmore forward Jalynn Applewhite recorded a double-double in the winning effort, as she tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds and freshman guard Sydnei Barber chipped in nine points to the winning effort.
Norwood wasn’t sure about the status of Hopgood going into Thursday night’s finals, which are slated for 7:30 p.m. Long-time arch-rivals Picayune and PRC will face-off for the third time this season at 6 p.m., in the consolation game at the Long Beach High School Gymnasium.