By BRUCE THORNTON
228Sports Contributing Writer
LUCEDALE — The Gautier Lady Gators and the George County Rebels continued to dominate division foes Tuesday night as the Division 8-5A basketball tournament got underway in Sellers Gymnasium.
The top seeds advanced as the Lady Gators defeated Vancleave 63-20 while the home-standing Rebels took care of East Central 75-48.
The second-third seed matchups provided the drama for the night as George County escaped the East Central Lady Hornets 50-48 to advance while Vancleave upset the number two seed Gautier 43-40 on the boy’s side.
Friday night’s matchups are now set with East Central and Vancleave playing in the girl’s 3rd place game at 4:00 pm, followed by the East Central-Gautier boy’s matchup at 5:30. These are win-or-go-home games for these teams. The championship matchups get underway at 7:00 pm with a rematch of last year’s title game between the Gautier Lady Gators and the George County Lady Rebels. The boy’s championship game wraps up the evening with George County taking on Vancleave.
Tuesday night the Gautier Lady Gators continued to show their dominance within the division in their win over Vancleave. The Lady Gators led 20-9 at the half but used a 30-point 3rd quarter to blow the game open. Aaliyah and Aalyssa McSwain combined for 25 of the 30 points in the quarter to lead Gautier to their 15th win of the season. Aaliyah led the Lady Gators with 16 total points while Aalyssa finished the night with 13 points. Brandi Martin was also in double figures with 11. Freshman Haiven Washington led the Lady Bulldogs with 8 points while McKenzie Wharton added 7.
These same two schools met in the boy’s contest with Vancleave avenging their two regular-season losses to the Gators when it mattered the most. The two teams were tied at 17 at the half but the Bulldogs outscored the Gators 19-6 in the 3rd quarter to take a 13-point lead into the final period.
Gautier closed to within four at 36-32 with less than two minutes to play, but the Bulldogs made their free throws and held on for the win. Kade Medlin led the Bulldogs with 18 points while Aiden Hood added 10. For the Gators, Shamarie Carroll matched Medlin’s 18 points while Quincy Roberts added 8. Both teams are 8-19 on the season.
The East Central-George County girl’s matchup managed to top the Bulldog-Gator excitement as the Lady Rebels scored late to win 50-48. East Central scored the game’s first 5 points but the Lady Rebels went on a 16-0 run that carried into the early minutes of the 2nd quarter. But the Lady Hornets rallied and when Bri Tanner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer EC had cut the lead to 25-23 going into the half.
East Central kept the momentum in the 3rd quarter and led 33-29 heading into the final quarter. The Lady Hornets led by 9 with less than 3 minutes to go but baskets by Taleah and Tenauri Daniels keyed the Lady Rebels’ comeback and win.
Taleah Daniels had a monster night for the Lady Rebels with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Miya Dearman added 11 points including 7 in the 4th quarter comeback.
Tanner led the Lady Hornets with 18 points while Alex Renot chipped in with 12. The Lady Rebels improve to 7-17 while the Lady Hornets fall to 7-10.
The boys’ contest between the same two teams started similar to the girl’s contest as EC jumped out to a 5-0 lead and controlled the tempo throughout the 1st quarter and led 16-8. From that point on, it was all George County.
The Rebels turned up the defensive pressure and outscore the Hornets 33-13 in the second quarter and led 41-29 at the half. A 16-3 advantage in the 3rd quarter continued to build the lead and the Rebels cruised into the finals with the 27-point win.
The Rebels who have now won 9 of their last 10 games were led by Marlin Odom with 18, Tyler Henry 15 and Deuce Knight 14 as 10 different Rebels got into the scoring column.
The young Hornets were led by Cartavious Myers with 13 and Porter Martin with 11.
The winner of the 3rd place game and the loser of the championship games will advance to the playoffs on Monday, February 13 (girls) and Tuesday, February 14(boys). While tournament champions draw a bye until Friday, February 17.