GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Fortunately for the Gulfport Admirals, they've made it to a 6A semifinal game in Jackson in each of the past three seasons.
Unfortunately for head coach Owen Miller and the Admirals, they lost both prior penultimate games. The first was a 65-53 defeat to Jim Hill at the end of the 2011-12 season. Last season's final loss was by a score of 51-43 to Madison Central.
This season, the Admirals (30-3) earned a rematch with the Jaguars (28-3) after Gulfport lost 61-58 to the Provine Rams and earned the No. 2 seed from the south. Madison Central slipped past Grenada 46-45 to earn the No. 1 seed from the north.
"The last two years we've been in this state semifinal game, we haven't shot the ball particularly well," Miller said. "Hopefully this year we'll make more shots. When you're making shots, it makes defending easier and it makes rebounding easier."
Gulfport is usually a solid shooting team but isn't known for its size on the court. In fact, 6-foot-4 starting center Derrick Anderson is the tallest on the team. In comparison, Provine, which is the No. 1 seed in Jackson, has seven players who stand at 6-foot-4 or taller. The unusual height differences haven't been a problem all season for the Admirals, considering the team has lost only three times in 33 games.
"I just want to do all the dirty work for the team," Anderson said. "I want to open up some space for the perimeter guys."
A few of those guys include Pass Christian senior transfer Dimi Cook, who is averaging 15.9 points-per-game and leading the team in steals. He helped the Pass Christian Pirates to the 3A state tournament last season where the Pirates lost 37-36 in the 3A semifinal to Velma Jackson.
"It's been a good season so far," Cook said. "We've been playing hard, working really hard in practice and trying to stay humble."
Leading scorer Jahshire Hardnett is the only returning starter from last season's squad when he was a sophomore. The junior guard is averaging 22.1 points per game and currently holds college offers from Southern Miss and UTEP.
"I really want to take care of the championship this season," Hardnett said. "I haven't been able to get the seniors what they need the past two years. I'd rather do it this year."
The Admirals face the Jaguars in the 6A semifinal game Wed., March 12, at 8:30 p.m.
4A Girls (Tue., March 11 at 1 p.m.)