By Bruce Thornton
228Sports Contributing Writer
LUCEDALE — The Gautier Lady Gators and the George County Rebels went undefeated through the regular season in Division 8-5A play and that dominance carried over into tournament play as both brought home division titles Friday night.
The Lady Gators knocked off the home-standing George County Lady Rebels 54-31 for their second consecutive title, while the Rebels defeated Vancleave 54-45 for their first division title since 2017. Joining these four teams in the playoffs this week include the East Central Lady Hornets who defeated Vancleave 39-18 in the consolation game and the Gautier Gators who took care of East Central 51-26 in the boy’s third-place game.
The Lady Hornets got a career-high 15 points from Carly Billingsley, including 12 in the 2nd quarter as they kept their season alive with the win over the Lady Bulldogs. Vancleave trailed 17-13 at the half but managed only five points in the second half as East Central pulled away. Heaven Washington led the Lady Bulldogs with 9 points and along with Alex Pickich was named to the All-Division team. Madison Knight, Alex Renot and Bri Tanner were named to the All-Division team from East Central. The Lady Hornets travel to Wayne County Monday night to face the Lady War Eagles at 6:00 pm.
The Gautier Gators got off to a quick 14-4 first-quarter lead against East Central and led 24-9 at the half. Gautier continued with a balanced attack in the second half to roll to the 25-point victory. Shamarie Carroll led the Gators with 14 points while Quincy Roberts added 10. Roberts was joined on the All-Division team by Brayden Coleman and Walter Thomas. East Central’s Porter Martin was also named All-Division. The Gators travel to South Jones on Tuesday night to take on the Braves at 6:00 pm.
The girl’s championship game was a rematch from last year and the results were the same. The Gautier Lady Gators used a big third quarter to make it back-to-back division titles. The Lady Rebels trailed 21-13 at the half but Gautier turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter and created some easy baskets outscoring George County 23-10 in the frame. The 23-point final margin was the closest division contest for the Lady Gators all season. DeKari McNair and Tenauri Daniels each had 10 points to lead the Lady Rebels who host Hattiesburg at 6:00 pm Monday in Sellers Gymnasium. Gautier was led by Aalyssa McSwain with 18 points and Brandi Martin with 14. The Lady Gators await the winner of the Brookhaven-PRC matchup on Friday, February 17. The Lady Gators swept the postseason awards as well with Head Coach Warren Hargrove being named Coach of the Year. Division MVP went to Brandi Martin while Defensive MVP went to Oriyanna Bates. Offensive MVP Kamrie Walker completed the sweep for the Lady Gators. Taleah Daniels joined McNair on the All-Division team for the Lady Rebels.
Vancleave coming off their upset of Gautier on Tuesday night jumped on George County as Blake Walters scored nine early points and the Bulldogs led 10-2 about three minutes into the game. George County settled in defensively and ended the quarter on a 12-3 run to lead 14-13 after the first eight minutes. From that point forward the Rebels slowly built the lead to double figures by the third quarter and made enough free throws down the stretch to hold off the pesky Bulldogs. The Rebels claimed the division title for the first time since going back-to-back in 2016-2017. George County got scoring from only four players in the game as Marlin Odom led the way with 20, followed by Deuce Knight with 15. Tyler Henry added 11 and Ethan Siebert chipped in with nine. The Bulldogs put 3 players in double figures led by Kade Medlen with 14 and with 11 each were Kam Medlen and Blake Walters. Vancleave will host Wayne County on Tuesday night to take on the War Eagles while the Rebels have the week off and await the winner of the Florence-PRC matchup. Kam Medlen and Blake Walters were named All-region from Vancleave while Hunter Barber, Tyler Henry, Tristan Pugh and Devon Williams represented the Rebels. George County also swept the MVP award with Deuce Knight being named MVP while Marlin Odom was named Offensive MVP and Ethan Siebert Defensive MVP. Head Coach Terry Bradley was named Division 8-5A Coach of the Year.