River nips Southern-Shreve in Region 23 quarter-finals

            POPLARVILLE — Eight-seeded Southern University-Shreveport (La.) gave top-seeded and MACJC champion Pearl River all it could handle here Wednesday in the quarter-finals in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament underway in A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
            But the 20th-ranked Wildcats survived to take a 64-62 victory over the scrappy Jaguars and advance to Friday’s semi-finals in a rematch with fourth-seeded Northwest Mississippi. NWCC ended fifth-seeded Jones County’s season with a 83-68 lopsided win in the quarter-finals.
            PRCC improved to 23-4 overall with the victory, while SU-S ended its season at 16-12.
            Forward Kaven Bernard spurred The River’s win, as the freshman out of Assumption High in Napoleonville, La., bombed Southern-Shreve with 26 points and 13 rebounds — both career and game-highs — including an impressive 10-of-13 (76.9 percent) effort at the foul line.
            Pearl River got on the scoreboard before the clock even started, as Xavian Rimmer sank one of two free throws via a technical foul on SU-S after a Jag player slammed a dunk in pregame warm ups.
            Southern-Shreveport grabbed its first of three leads in the first half with the game’s opening field goal. Just over eight minutes into the contest, things were knotted at a low-scoring 9-9, but PRCC finally came alive offensively and put together an 11-0 run over the next three-plus minutes to go up 20-9 with 8:33 left before the break.
            The Jaguars answered with a dominating 21-9 scoring run to go up 30-29 with 1:13 left before the half. After two lead exchanges, Jeremy Hollimon of Gulfport High banged in a three in the final seconds to give the Wildcats a 34-32 advantage at the intermission.
            The two teams battled to a 30-30 stalemate in the second half, which saw nine ties and seven lead exchanges.
            Bernard hit a bucket with 2:38 left to put the Wildcats up 62-60 and after Francis missed two foul shots, Jeffrey Drew’s basket tied it up for the last time at 62-62. Rimmer’s two free throws with 14.6 seconds left, iced the win for Pearl River.
            Francis led SU-S with 17 points (10 rebounds, two treys, four assists, three steals), while A’Torri Shine scored 16 (five rebounds, three steals), James 14 (two treys), Jeffrey Drew 10 (eight rebounds, two steals), and Reginald Owens five.
            Besides Bernard, Rimmer, an Alcorn State transfer who prepped at Piney Woods School near Jackson, added 17 (eight rebounds) for Pearl River; while DeMondre Harvey of Minden (La.) High scored eight (seven rebounds), Hollimon five (four rebounds), Daniel Grieves, a U.S. Air Force Academy transfer who prepped at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, four; and DeAngelo Coleman out of South Pike High in Magnolia (two steals) and Devontai Foye of Hattiesburg High, two each.
            Pearl River hit 41.1 percent (23 of 56) from the field to Southern-Shreveport’s 34.9 percent (22 of 63), while the Wildcats were a dismal two of 13 (15.4 percent) from three-point range to the Jaguars’ lack-luster five-of-18 (27.8 percent) effort. At the foul line, PRCC was 16 of 27 (59.3 percent); while SU-S was 13 of 18 (72.2 percent)
            The River dominated the boards with 46 rebounds (19 offensive, 28 defensive), while Southern-Shreve grabbed 37 (17 offensive, 20 defensive).
            The River will have its hands full against the Rangers in the semis.
            The two squared off in the semi-finals of last week’s MACJC Tournament in Poplarville and saw host Pearl River trailing 41-24 at the break before the Wildcats bounced back with an equally-dominating 41-21 advantage in the second half to take a 65-62 victory.
            Four Region 23 women’s quarter-final games are set for today with second-seeded Northeast Mississippi facing sixth-seeded Mississippi Gulf Coast at 12:30 p.m., seventh-seeded Baton Rouge (La.) facing fourth-seeded Jones County at 2:30 p.m.,  top-seeded Copiah-Lincoln facing eight-seeded Meridian at 6 p.m., and third-seeded Itawamba facing fifth-seeded Northwest Mississippi at 8 p.m.
            The men’s semi-final contests are set for 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday, while the women’s follow at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The women’s and men’s championship games are set for Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.
            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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