'Cat Fight III sets stage for men's Region 23 title

     CLINTON --- 'Cat Fight III will be for all the Region 23 marbles plus a berth in the NJCAA National Tournament set for March 17-22 in Hutchinson, Kan.
    The No. 1-seeded Jones County Bobcats will take on the No. 6 Pearl River Wildcats at 8 p.m. Saturday for the men's championship here in Region 23 Tournament action underway in A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus, marking the third time the two teams have battled this season. JCJC, which won both previous regular-season match ups (72-69 Jan. 23 in Poplarville and 66-54 Feb. 17 in Ellisville), eliminated No. 5 East Mississippi to get to the title bout when Johnny Zuppardo banked a buzzer-beating trey to take a 73-72 win, while The River zapped No. 7 Northwest Mississippi 84-77 in Friday's semi-final nightcap game.
    PRCC improved to 18-7 with its win, while 19th-ranked JCJC is now 22-6.
    Saturday's men's title bout can be watched at www.jcjc.tv.
    Against Northwest, the Wildcats led practically the entire first half, building its lead to as many as eight points --- 24-16 --- when Southeastern Louisiana signee DeAngelo Coleman of South Pike High nailed a basket 6:52 into the game. The Rangers bounced back with a 13-5 run to tie it up at 29-29 with 2:51 left before knotting the score at 31-31 a mere nine seconds later.
    Quintarius Porter, a Southwest Mississippi CC transfer who prepped at Forest Hill High in Jackson, hit a bucket to put The River up by two before Courtney Shannon answered with a trey with 1:31 left to end the first-half scoring and give the Rangers a 34-33 edge at the intermission.
    Northwest opened the second half with an 19-9 scoring run to pump its lead to 53-42, capped by a three-point play by De'Sean Dockery with 16:40 left. Shannon's three-pointer eight minutes later pumped the Rangers' lead to 65-53 --- their largest of the game --- but Pearl River answered with a 13-2 comeback surge to regain the lead at 66-65 when Coleman sank a pair of free throws at the 5:27 mark.
    Three lead changes ensued over the next two minutes before Kaven Bernard out of Assumption High in Napoleonville, La., hit a foul shot to knot things up at 69-69. Just over a minute later with Coleman perched at the foul line, NWCC head coach Bubba Skelton was tagged with a technical and Troy State (Ala.) signee Jeremy Hollimon of Gulfport High arrived to bang in two free throws, while Coleman duplicated his effort to put PRCC up 73-69 with 2:23 remaining.
    The Rangers never recovered and the Wildcats' 11-8 scoring run the rest of the way ended Northwest's season.
    Bernard paced PRCC with a season-high 29 points (10 rebounds, two blocks), while Coleman scored 23 (seven assists), including a 13-of-14 effort at the foul line. Hollimon added 14 (two treys, six of six free throws), Porter (four rebounds) and Joshua Johnson out of Carroll High in Monroe, La., four, Lester Crosby of Franklinton (La.) High (four rebounds), Devontai Foye of Hattiesburg High, and Bryant McGee of West Marion High (four rebounds), two apiece, and Louisiana-Monroe signee Rakeem Esco of Canton High one.
    Dockery led the Rangers with 19 points (three steals), while Shannon scored 14 (three treys), Aston Morton eight (five rebounds), Dajon Reno 13, Tristan Moore 10 (eight assists, two treys), Sharwyn McGee eight, Rashon Coleman three, and Gavin Robinson two.
    Pearl River hit 65percent (26 of 40) from the field to Northwest's 50 percent (29 of 58), while the Wildcats were three of nine (33.3 percent) from three-point range to the Rangers' eight-of-22 effort (36.4 percent). PRCC was 29-38 (76.3 percent) at the foul line to NWCC's 11-of-21 (52.4 percent) showing.
    The River hauled in 30 rebounds (9 offensive, 21 defensive) to Northwest's 23 (13 offensive, 10 defensive, while the Wildcat committed 24 turnovers to the Ranger's 22.
    The regional women's title bout is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, pitting Miss. No. 2 Southwest Mississippi against Region No. 5 Baton Rouge (La.).
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March 5-8 / Mississippi College / Clinton, MS
No. 7 Northwest Miss. vs. No. 6 Pearl River
Men's Semi-Final Game
Halftime: 34-33 (NWCC)
Second Half: 51-43 (PRCC)
PEARL RIVER (18-7): Kaven Bernard 29 (10 RB, 2 blocks), DeAngelo Coleman 23 (7 assists, 13 of 14 FT), Jeremy Holllimon 14 (2 treys, 6 of 6 FT), Quintarius Porter 7 (4 RB), Joshua Johnson 4, Lester Crosby 2 (4 RB), Devontai Foye 2, Bryant McGee 2 (4 RB), Rakeem Esco 1.
NORTHWEST MISS. (13-11): De'Sean Dockery 19 (3 steals), Courtney Shannon 14 (3 treys), Aston Morton 8 (5 RB), Dajon Reno 13, Sharwyn McGee 8, Tristan Moore 10 (8 assists, 2 treys), Rashon Coleman 3, Gavin Robinson 2.
FIELD GOALS: NWCC 29 OF 58 (50.0%), PRCC 26 of 40 (65.0%).
THREE POINTERS: NWCC – 8 of 22 (36.4%), PRCC – 3 of 9 (33.3%).
FREE THROWS: NWCC – 11 of 21 (52.4%), PRCC – 29 of 38 (76.3%).
REBOUNDS: NWCC – 23 (13 offensive, 10 defensive), PRCC – 30 (9 offensive, 21 defensive).
EARLIER MEN'S QUARTER-FINAL GAMES: No. 1 Jones County 73, No. 5 East Miss. 72.
UP NEXT: Pearl River's men will now face Jones County Saturday at 8 p.m. in the men's championship game.

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