Wildcats sew up No. 1 seed in South with victory over Meridian

POPLARVILLE – It was a far more difficult struggle than expected, but Pearl River Community College escaped an upset bid by Meridian and held on for an 83-81 victory Thursday night in men’s basketball action at M.R. White Coliseum.

The win earned the Wildcats a share of the South Division championship with Jones County, and thanks to Copiah-Lincoln’s 71-69 upset win over Mississippi Gulf Coast, PRCC will be the South No. 1 seed for next week’s MACJC State Tournament.

The Wildcats will face East Mississippi on Monday in the men’s quarterfinals at Fulton on the campus of Itawamba Community College

“It’s a testament to the kids for staying in there and fighting, and winning tough possessions during the game and throughout the year,” said Pearl River coach Chris Oney. 

It didn’t come easy, though, against a Meridian team that had nothing to play for except pride. The Eagles took advantage of uncharacteristically poor free throw shooting by the Wildcats in the final minutes.

PRCC, which completed the regular season 16-7 overall and 10-4 in the division, missed 6 of 16 foul shots down the stretch, allowing Meridian (5-17, 1-13) to rally, cutting a 10-point Wildcat lead to one on two occasions. The Wildcats’ were only able to celebrate after Ken’Darrius Hamilton’s 3-point attempt for the Eagles at the buzzer fell short.

“As a coach, when you play a really good team, you worry, and you play against a team that’s been struggling, you worry too,” said Oney. “Either way, it can jump up to bite you.

“Against a team that’s playing their last game of the season, and they’re still excited about playing. Their coach did a good job of preparing them to play and they made some shots.”

Meridian was 7 of 9 from 3-point range in the season half, and 11 of 18 for the game, led by Hamilton, who swished six treys en route to a game-high 30 points.

Cortez Mitchell answered with 26 points for the Wildcats, Dontellius Ross added 15 points and Darrlyn Willis had a quiet 13 points.

The women’s game was every bit as exciting, but it was another heartbreaker for PRCC, as Meridian handed the Lady Wildcats a 74-72 loss.

Pearl River, which finished its season 6-16 and 3-11, led by as many as nine points in the first half, but couldn’t take advantage of opportunities down the stretch for its fifth loss of the season by two points or less.

The Lady Wildcats’ three sophomores finished their careers at PRCC strong, as Shaniqua Magee scored 22 points, Asia Thibodeaux had 16 points and Akayla Powell added 15. Maia McCullum led all scorers with 27 points – hitting seven 3-pointers – to lead Meridian (3-19, 2-12).

PRCC BASKETBALL SUMMARIES
Thursday at Poplarville
WOMEN
Meridian 74, Pearl River 72
Meridian      12-22-15-25 – 74
Pearl River      16-20-16-20 – 72
MERIDIAN (3-19, 2-12 in South Division): Neiundra Moore 6. Maia McCullum 27, Trieshia Jackson 9, LaShonda Cousin 9, Andrianna James 15, Halethe Jones 2, Roshonae Rice 6. TOTALS: FG 28-54 (51.9%), 3FG 11-21 (52.4%), FT 7-13 (53.8%).
PEARL RIVER (6-16, 3-11 in South Division): Asia Thibodeaux 16, Tiara Warren 3, Shaniqua Magee 22, Akayla Powell 15, Takari Cooks 12, Alex Cumbest 4. TOTALS: FG 26-66 (39.4%), 3FG 6-21 (28.6%), FT 14-21 (66.7%).
MEN
Pearl River 83, Meridian 81
Meridian         29-52 – 81
Pearl River      40-43 – 83
MERIDIAN (5-17, 1-13 in South Division): Javontay Rogers 7, Ken’Darrius Hamilton 30, Ashton Pierce 2, Tevin Smith 12, Devin Paicley-Smith 8, Denarrius Gray 3, Demarius Calvert 3, Raphael Shaw 6, Darrin Mitchell 10. TOTALS: FG 29-72 (40.3%), 3FG 11-18 (61.1%), FT 12-22 (54.5%).

PEARL RIVER (16-7, 10-4 in South Division): William Brown 4, Cortez Mitchell 26, Dontellius Ross 15, Teddy Scott 4, Jeffrey Spence 5, Darrlyn Willis 13, Eli Arcement 11, Jabari Craig 1, Leon Hampton 4. TOTALS: FG 26-66 (39.4%), 3FG 7-20 (35.0%), FT 20-28 (71.4%).