SENATOBIA – It was business as usual for Pearl River Community College, and business was good for the Wildcats in the opening round of the MACJC State Basketball Tournament.
The Wildcats got balanced scoring, with five players in double figures, as PRCC rolled to an 80-63 victory over East Mississippi Monday afternoon at Howard Coliseum on the campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Pearl River (19-4) advanced to face Holmes at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the first of two men’s semifinal games. Holmes crushed Mississippi Gulf Coast 85-57 in the early game on Monday. East Mississippi completed its season 12-12.
“It has been going just like that,” said PRCC coach Chris Oney. “Our defense really carried us, the way it has all year.”
The Wildcats held the Lions to just 29.0 percent from the field (9 of 31) and blocked six shots, three by sophomore Jartavius Dobbs (Aberdeen) in the first half, as PRCC took command, building a nine-point lead.
“Jartavius has been really active these past few games, because he’s finally got some true post players to go up against,” said Oney. “His length, when he’s playing his game, presents teams with a lot of problems on the defensive end.”
Freshman Eric Thornton Jr. (Jackson), the state’s leading scorer with 20 points per game, scored 14 points, including 10 in the second half. While he got off to a slow start, his first basket of the game put PRCC ahead for good and sparked an 18-8 run in the first half.
“I’ve been working on getting my teammates involved, and it’s really helped us,” said Thornton. “The more people we can get involved, the better we play as a team.”
Pearl River led 33-25 at halftime, and turned the amps up offensively in the second half, converting 19 of 30 shots (63.3 percent). For the game, the Wildcats shot 57.4 percent (31 of 54).
”We just depend on our teammates,” said freshman Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo), who led Pearl River with 17 points. “One night it might be this guy, another night it might be the other guy. Coach Oney tells us to contribute together and play as a team.”
The Wildcats pushed the margin to double digits right from the outset of the second half, and the Lions never threatened the rest of the game.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” said Oney. “They’re hungry and they want to win, and they’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Sophomore Rodney Mallett (Lexington) had 13 points, continuing his strong play down the stretch. In the last nine games, Mallett is averaging 10.6 points. Freshman Jones James III (Jackson) scored 11 points and sophomore Cameron Douglas had 10 points.
PRCC BASKETBALL SUMMARY
MACJC State Tournament
Thursday at Senatobia
Pearl River 80, East Mississippi 63
EMCC 25 38 – 63
PRCC 33 47 – 80
EAST MISSISSIPPI (12-12): Cam Horton 23, Keith Harris 2, Dewayne Cox 3, Markedic Bell 7, Malik Harper 2, Sam Dunkum 3, Terryonte Thomas 20, Carlos Thomas 2.
PEARL RIVER (19-4): Jonas James III 11, Cedric Brim Jr. 17, Rodney Mallett 13, Eric Thornton Jr. 14 (7 rebounds), Brandon Cranford 3, Cameron Douglas 10, Willie Logan 2, Kirk Parker 1 (7 rebounds), Jartavius Dobbs 9.