CLINTON – The beat goes on for Pearl River Community College in men’s basketball.
The Wildcats used a smothering defense and got enough out of their offense to roll past Mississippi Gulf Coast 66-57 Tuesday night in the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
PRCC (22-4) advanced to the semifinals to face Northeast Mississippi at 3 p.m. Thursday. The Tigers cruised past Baton Rouge (La.) 75-59 in their quarterfinal. Gulf Coast finished its season 18-7.
“I’ve been saying it all year, our defense has carried us most of this season,” said Pearl River coach Chris Oney.
“Gulf Coast was a tough matchup for us. South Division team, they’ve seen us twice, archrivals, and the way they play defense forced us to slow things down. We weren’t able to get in transition as much as we wanted. “
If there was any lingering hangover from last week’s triumph at the MACJC State Tournament, however, it didn’t show as the Wildcats came out strong from the start.
After the two teams traded the lead, PRCC took over for good on a 20-6 run, and led by as many as 14 points in the first half.
“I was proud of my guys,” said Oney. “I thought we played with energy. We didn’t play like we were thinking about last week; I thought we played like this was a game they wanted to win.”
Freshman Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo) swished three 3-pointers for nine of his team-high 14 points in the first half. The Wildcats were especially tough on Gulf Coast’s leading scorer, Dedoch Chan, who was held to just nine points and was not a factor.
“We played great defense tonight,” said Brim. “Coaches just told us to stay back on (Chan), make him shoot and not let him drive to the basket.”
The Bulldogs were able to close the margin to 36-30 at halftime, and pulled to within four points, 43-39 early in the second half.
But sophomore Cameron Douglas (Columbus) hit a floater in the lane, igniting a decisive 9-0 run. Freshman Jonas James III drove the lane for a layup then nailed a 3-pointer to give Pearl River a 55-41 lead.
James finished with 9 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Douglas had 11 points, including 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Freshman Eric Thornton Jr., had an off night scoring, but still had 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Although the offense was hit-and-miss at times for the Wildcats, they still converted 47.9 percent from the field (23 of 48) and were 7 of 22 from 3-point range (30.4 percent).
The winner of Thursday’s semifinal will face the winner of the other semifinal between Southwest and Holmes at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the chance to qualify for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament at Hutchinson, Kan.
NJCAA Region 23 Tournament
At Wood Coliseum, Clinton
Southwest 70, Northwest 68
Holmes 74, Copiah-Lincoln 60
Northeast 75, Baton Rouge 59
Pearl River 66, Gulf Coast 57
1 p.m. – Southwest Mississippi (17-8) vs. Holmes (22-4); 3 p.m. – Northeast Mississippi (19-7) vs. Pearl River (22-4).
7:30 p.m. – Southwest/Holmes winner vs. Northeast/PRCC winner.