River shoots for MACJC repeat after smacking East Miss 61-52 in men''s tournament semi-finals

February 24, 2011 - 2:01pm -- braswell

WESSON Pearl River will be gunning for an MACJC state basketball championship repeat here Thursday against Mississippi Gulf Coast after the Wildcats eliminated the seventh-ranked East Mississippi Lions 61-52 in the state tournament semi-finals here Wednesday. South No. 2 seed PRCC will face off with South No. 1 MGCCC for the third time this season at 7:45 p.m. in Graydon L. Mullen Coliseum on the Copiah-Lincoln campus after the two arch-rivals split in their previous regular-season meetings. The Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats 82-77 Jan. 20 in Perkinston before The River pulled off a dominating 86-58 victory Feb. 14 in Poplarville. Gulf Coast will enter the title bout off a day rest as its Wednesday semi-final foe North No. 2 Mississippi Delta was ousted from the tournament after it was discovered the Trojans were playing an ineligible player. MGCCC got a forfeit win and a berth in the championship game. Twentieth-year Wildcat head coach Richard Mathis has won five MACJC champions 1995, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2010 since arriving on the Poplarville campus, as well as a men title at Northeast Mississippi and women championship at East Mississippi. Both the Wildcats and the Lions are 21-4 overall after Wednesday meeting. East Miss managed only two leads the entire game, while the score was knotted up five times in the first half. The Lions led for the first two minutes of the contest, but Pearl River went up 6-4 at the 15:59 mark and didnt relinquish its lead until EMCC Jonathan King sank a foul shot with just under five minutes left before the break to briefly put the Lions up 21-20. A minute later, Daron Bell of Bay High answered with one of his five treys on the night; kicking off a 9-2 run to put the Wildcats up 29-23 at the intermission. Troy University signee Emil Jones of North Forrest High sank a three with 12:25 left to give PRCC its first double-digit advantage at 41-31. The Wildcats built their lead to as much as 12 points three times in the second half its last at 61-49 with 1:27 left but EMCC took three trips to the foul line in the final minute to cut The River to nine as the game ended. Bell paced the Wildcats with a game-high 18 points (four steals), while Kentari Nettles out of LeFlore High in Mobile, Ala., added 15 (eight rebounds). Phillip Crawford out of Murphy High in Mobile, who was tagged with two fouls in the opening minute of the game and didnt return to the court until late in the first half, scored 13, Jones 11 (11 rebounds, six assists, three steals), and Calvin Johnson of Ridgeland High and LaKendrick Maye of Prentiss High, two each. Pedro Maciel, a Centenary College (La.) transfer who prepped at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, had six assists for the Wildcats. D.J. Evans led the Lions with 13 points, while Jonathan King scored 12 and hauled in a game-high 19 rebounds. Deonte Alexander added 10 (three steals), Deon Bedford seven, Donovan Walker six, and Millaun Brown four (11 rebounds). Pearl River hit 43.8percent (21 of 48) from the field to East Mississippi dismal 31.5 percent (17 of 54), while the Wildcats were six of 14 (42.9 percent) from three-point range to the Lions five-of-16 (31.3 percent) effort. PRCC was 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) at the foul line, while EMCC was 13 of 28 (67.5 percent). East Miss had a slight edge in the rebounding battle with 39 boards (15 offensive, 24 defensive) to Pearl River 38 (eight offensive, 30 defensive). In other action Wednesday, South No. 2 Jones County eliminated South No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast 72-59 to cop a berth in the women championship game against South No. 1 and tournament host Co-Lin, which defeated North No. 2 Itawamba 85-72. The women state championship game will tip off at 6 p.m.