PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast shrugged off a sluggish start, and three sophomores combined for 70 points in a 91-87 victory over Southwest.
The Sophomore Night victory sent that group out with a 21-3 record at the Weathers/Wentzell Center the last two years.
"The thing I'm proud of is that we're finishing games," Gulf Coast coach Wendell Weathers said. "In some of the other games, we didn't finish. In this game and the Pearl River game, we came from behind and finished."
The victory clinched the South Division third seed heading into the MACJC Tournament next week. The Bulldogs (18-5, 10-4) finished tied with the Bears (16-7, 10-4) in the standings, but lost a tiebreaker.
MGCCC will play North No. 2 Holmes (15-8, 9-3) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Ellisville.
Gulf Coast will also be the third seed in the Region 23 Tournament the following week. That first-round opponent will be determined by Saturday's game between Baton Rouge and Southern-Shreveport.
Zach Parker (6-2, 185, So., Biloxi/Biloxi) led Gulf Coast with 26 points. Winston Morgan (5-10, 170, So., East Catholic/Manchester, Conn.) had 23, and Davion Cole-Johnson (6-4, 210, So., Pike/Glen Ellyn, Ill.) added 21.
Things didn't start well for Gulf Coast, which saw Rodrick Sikes make three straight 3-pointers to make the score 25-13. That brought the Bulldogs out of their zone, but he made another and Gulf Coast eventually trailed by 15.
The Bulldogs dominated the last six minutes of the half, though. They outscored the Bears 18-5 to pull within three at the break.
"We just had to get our focus back on offense," Parker said. "The defense turns into offense, and we just had to stop their best player."
Gulf Coast scored the first five points of the second half, with Parker's 3-pointer given the Bulldogs a 38-36 lead 60 seconds in.
The lead swapped hands repeatedly until Gulf Coast took the lead for good with a Tedrian Brisco (6-5, 195, So., Porter's Chapel/Vicksburg) three-point play with 6:57 left. A quick 10-0 run with 3's by Parker and Morgan made it 84-72 with 2:16 left, and Gulf Coast made its free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
The Bulldogs were 14-of-15 in the final 10 minutes on the way to shooting 81.4 percent for the night. They made 35 free throws, while the Bears made 67 percent of 18 attempts for the night.
After making just one 3-pointer in the first half, the Bulldogs poured in seven after the break. That helped them finish off their impressive two years on their home court, which saw them lose those three games by a total of four points, including one in double overtime last year.
"I think it's our crowd and the energy they bring," Cole-Johnson said. "It's just something about home. We can' lose at home."
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