POPLARVILLE – The Pearl River Community College men achieved one of the goals they set out for themselves in the preseason, now it’s on to bigger game.
The Wildcats overcame an 18-point first-half deficit, then held off Copiah-Lincoln down the stretch to defeat the Wolves 79-75 Thursday night in basketball action at Wesson.
Pearl River (18-4 overall, 10-4 division) won the South Division title for the third time in the past four seasons with the victory, sweeping the season series from Co-Lin (19-4, 10-4).
PRCC will be the South No. 1 seed in the MACJC State Tournament next week at Senatobia and will face East Mississippi at 2 p.m. Monday.
“I think in these last three games, our closeness and togetherness has helped us weather the storm after we had a two-game losing streak,” said PRCC men’s coach Chris Oney. “The just came in with the attitude that they refused to lose these last three games.”
It didn’t come without a battle, however. The Wolves used a 23-5 run in the first half to build an 18-point lead, 34-16, with 5½ minutes to play in the period.
“We talked before the game how (Co-Lin) was going to come out with a lot of emotion, because they knew what they had to do also,” said Oney. “We told the kids, ‘just keep fighting and stay together,’ because we felt like we were the better team.”
The Wildcats started their comeback with a 9-0 run, capped by three foul shots by sophomore Jerrod Rigby (Bay St. Louis) and a baseline drive by sophomore Rodney Mallett (Lexington) after a defensive stop.
PRCC closed the half with an 11-2 spurt and trailed 38-29 at halftime.
Pearl River opened the second half with a 7-2 run to narrow the margin, then took the lead, 47-46, on a 3-point shot by sophomore Brandon Cranford (Louisville, Ky.) with 12:40 to play,
The Wildcats were able to hold off Co-Lin the rest of the way, but not without some tense moments.
Freshman Eric Thornton Jr. (Jackson) got 1 of 2 free throws with 1:13 to play to give PRCC its biggest lead of the night, 73-66.
After back-to-back baskets by the Wolves, freshman Jonas James III (Jackson) drove for a layup to give Pearl River a 75-70 lead with 36 seconds left, but the Wolves answered with a 3-point shot to narrow the margin once again.
But James calmly sack four foul shots in the final seconds to seal the win.
“We put the kids in those kinds of situations in the preseason, and even in the recruiting process,” said Oney.
“We expect to win championships here, and we recruit kids with that championship DNA, so that when they’re put in those kinds of situations, they seize the moment.”
James led a balanced attack for Pearl River with 15 points. Thornton added 14 points and Mallett finished with 13 points. Sophomore Cameron Douglas (Columbus) led the Wildcats with 9 rebounds, and freshman Kirk Parker (Vicksburg) had 7 rebounds to go with his 9 points.
(Photo by Juco Weekly)
Pearl River freshman Jonas James III puts up a contested jump shot during action earlier this season against East Central at Decatur.
PRCC BASKETBALL SUMMARY
Thursday at Wesson
Pearl River 79, Copiah-Lincoln 75
PRCC 29 50 – 79
CLCC 38 37 – 75
PEARL RIVER (18-4, 10-4 in South): Jonas James III 15, Cedric Brim Jr. 6, Rodney Mallett 13, Eric Thornton Jr. 14, Brandon Cranford 6, Cameron Douglas 6 (9 rebounds), Kirk Parker 9 (7 rebounds), Jartavius Dobbs 5 (6 blocks).
COPIAH-LINCOLN (19-4, 10-4 in South): Anthony Jones 8, Darrian Wilson 8, Lazorian McNulty 2, Damarius Brooks 2, Miles Daniels 14, Jonathan Floyd 23, Youry White 16 (8 rebounds), Mike McWilliams 2.