Northwest wraps River’s season with 89-81 victory in Region 23 semi-finals

CLINTON — The MACJC champion Pearl River Wildcats wrapped their 2012-2013 basketball season here Friday with an 89-81 loss to the Northwest Mississippi Rangers in the semi-finals of the Region 23 Tournament underway in A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
            PRCC, ranked 20th in the latest NJCAA Division I men’s basketball poll and top seeded in the tournament, finished the year at 23-5; while fourth-seeded Northwest is now 19-7 and faces second-seeded East Mississippi in the men’s title bout Saturday at 8 p.m. EMCC eliminated third-seeded Baton Rouge (La.) 72-58 in the other men’s semi-final game.
            Region championship night tips off with the women’s game at 6 p.m., pitting third-seeded Itawamba against seventh-seeded Baton Rouge. ICC defeated top-seeded Copiah-Lincoln 62-56 in the women’s semi-finals, while BRCC trimmed sixth-seeded Mississippi Gulf Coast 62-59.
            The Wildcats nipped eight-seeded Southern-Shreveport (La.) 64-62 in the men’s quarter-finals on Wednesday, while the Rangers were 83-68 winners over fifth-seeded Jones County.
            Friday’s semi-final contest was a rematch of last week’s MACJC State Tournament semi-final in Poplarville when top-seeded host Pearl River battled back from a 17-point deficit at the intermission to squeak past Northwest 65_62 with a commanding 41-21 advantage in the second half. That earned the Wildcats’ their championship berth against Mississippi Delta, which fell to PRCC 81-60 to give 22-year Wildcat head coach Richard Mathis his sixth state championship at The River.
            But Friday’s game was a different story. With 14:35 left before the break, things were knotted up at 8-8, but the Rangers answered with a 16-10 run capped by one of Charles Eaton’s three three-pointers on the night over the next seven minutes to grab a 24-18 lead before closing out the half with a 13-12 scoring advantage to lead by seven — their largest of the first half — at 37-30 at the intermission with NWCC’s Rashion Coleman swishing a buzzer-beating trey to end the first-half scoring.
            It took Northwest less than two minutes into the second half to build its lead to double digits off back-to-back opening baskets by Dominique Harris and D.J. Biggs. Those two buckets kicked off a 24-17 offensive onslaught by the Rangers over the next nine-and-a-half minutes to go up 61-47 — the last of their three 14-point advantages during that time span.
            But Pearl River retaliated. Daniel Grieves answered with a pair of foul shots then followed DeMondre Harvey’s three-point play with one of his own to cut NWCC’s lead to 61-55 with 9:45 left. Xavian Rimmer banged all three of his treys in the game over the next minute-and-a-half to cap a 17-6 Wildcat scoring run and The River had pulled to within three at 67-64 with 7:19 remaining.
            The Wildcats’ 12-9 scoring advantage over the next three-plus minutes managed a tie at 76-76 at the 3:51 mark, but the Rangers closed out the game with a 13-5 scoring surge to ice the game.
            Harris led SWCC with 21 points (three assists), while Eaton(three treys, four rebounds) and Tristan Moore (three treys, two steals) scored 16 each, Biggs 10 (four rebounds, two steals), Kenyatta Jones (two treys, three assists, two steals) and Demarcus McVay (four rebounds, eight each; and Coleman and Jordan Husley (four rebounds, five each.
            Rimmer, an Alcorn State transfer who prepped at Piney Woods School near Jackson, paced the Wildcats with a game-high 25 points (three treys, three assists, two steals), including a seven-of-seven effort at the foul line; while Jeremy Hollimon of Gulfport High scored 15 (four treys, six rebounds), DeMondre Harvey of Minden (La.) High 14 (eight rebounds, three steals, six for six at foul line), Frank Snow, an Angelina CC (Tex.) transfer from Wellington, Fla., 13 (seven rebounds), Grieves, a U.S. Air Force Academy transfer who prepped at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, nine (five rebounds, five of five at foul line), and DeAngelo Coleman out of South Pike High in Magnolia five (four assists, four rebounds).
            Pearl River hit 43.3 percent (26 of 60) from the field to Northwest’s 54.5 percent (30 of 55), while the Wildcats were seven of 15 (46.7 percent) from three-point range to the Rangers’ nine-of-19 (47.4 percent) effort. At the foul line, PRCC was 22 of 25 (88 percent); while NWCC was 20 of 29 (69 percent)
            The River dominated the boards with 40 rebounds (14 offensive, 26 defensive), while Northwest grabbed 27 (five offensive, 22 defensive). The River committed 15 turnovers in the game to the Rangers’ 10.
            The Region 23 champions advance to the 24-team NJCAA National Tournaments set for March 18-23. The women’s nationals will be played in Salina, Kan., while the men’s in Hutchinson, Kan.

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