Playoff-bound Pearl River squads split in regular-season finales

POPLARVILLE Pearl River Community College playoff-bound women and men basketball squads split with MACJC South Division rival East Central in both schools regular-season finales here Thursday with the Lady Wildcats taking an 80-68 overtime victory, while the Wildcat squad struggled offensively and handed the visiting Warriors a 73-68 win. The PRCC women team, which improved to 15-7 overall and 8-4 in division play, clinched the South No. 2 seed in next week (Monday through Thursday) MACJC State Tournament at Itawamba CC in Fulton. The Lady Wildcats snatched the second-place finish from Jones County despite boasting identical 8-4 division marks via a tie-breaker scenario (PRCC swept JCJC during the regular season). Jones Lady Bobcats, who upset South champ and No. 1 seed Copiah-Lincoln 70-66 Thursday in Wesson, are the No. 3 seed; while East Central is No. 4. PRCC men, on the other hand, dropped to 12-10 and 8-4, but had already secured the South No. 2 seed behind No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast heading into their ECCC match up. JCJC men, which disposed of Co-Lin 86-75 Thursday, secured the South No. 4 seed with its win; while Hinds is the South No. 3 seed. East Central women dropped to 9-13 and 7-5, while its men improved to 3-19 and 3-9. In the women game, ECCC scored 10 and held PRCC to one point for the first seven minutes of the contest, but Shanta Echols of Sumrall High kicked off a 21-11 Lady Wildcat run when she hit a basket at the 12:51 mark of the first half and Lolecia Richardson out of Provine High in Jackson capped the surge with a three-point play at the 3:40 mark to put The River up 22-21. The lead exchanged hands three more times before Toy Johnson of Pascagoula High hit a bucket with five seconds before the break to give the Lady Cats a 30-29 lead at the half. After the Lady Warriors opened the second half with two straight baskets, Samantha Gunn, a Canton native who prepped at Velma Jackson High, drilled a three to tie it at 33-33, but Kelcia Bufkin answered with one of her four treys on the night. A minute-and-a-half later, Gunn banged in another three to put PRCC up 40-39 and the Lady Wildcats stayed in front until Xzandra Dowd basket knotted it at 68-68 with four seconds left to send things into overtime. In the five-minute OT period, Pearl River blanked East Central 12-0 to take the 80-69 victory. Dowd led the Lady Warriors with a game-high 23 points (seven rebounds), while Bufkin added 16 (four rebounds, four treys), JaMonica Orton 13 (13 rebounds), Kurlysha Bell six (five rebounds), Ashlee Hardy and Jaianah Matthew, three each; and Inessa Adams and Jakela Johnson (six rebounds), two each. Echols paced The River with 19 points (five rebounds, while Gunn scored 13 (seven rebounds, two treys), Johnson 12 (seven assists, four rebounds, two treys), Quentessa Bullock of East Marion High 10 (four rebounds, three assists, two steals), including an eight-for-eight effort at the foul line; Richardson nine, Branita Malone out of Choctaw High in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., eight (nine rebounds); Shana Ward, an East Central CC transfer from Carthage, five; Chaquita McGee of Yazoo City High three, and Daiquari Raine of Poplarville High one (four rebounds). East Central hit 64.7 percent (11 of 17) from the free throw line to Pearl River 65.4 percent (17 of 26), while the Lady Warriors were 25 of 67 (37.3 percent) from the field to the Lady Wildcats 29-of-70 (41.4 percent) effort. From three-point range, ECCC was seven of 29 (24.1 percent), while PRCC was an impressive five of 11 (45.5 percent). Both teams finished the night with 44 rebounds with East Central grabbing 15 offensive and 29 defensive boards, while Pearl River hauled in 16 offensive and 28 defensive. ECCC committed 18 turnovers to the PRCC 12. In the men game, the Wildcats led for most of the first half before Akeem Toppin hit a trey with 6:43 left before the break to give the Warriors their first lead at 20-18. PRCC immediately tied it off a bucket by Josh Carpenter of Oak Grove High, but Cordarion Nichols answered with a basket to regain the lead for ECCC and the Warriors took the money and ran. Nichols basket kicked off a 19-11 East Central run to put the visitors up 39-31 at the intermission. East Central built two 10-point leads at the 10:59 and 7:50 marks of the second half, while Pearl River managed to pull to within three twice in the final minute before a pair of foul shots by Jimmie Broomfield ended the scoring with 11 seconds left. Broomfield led the Warriors with 21 points (two treys, two steals), including a seven-for-seven effort at the free throw line; while Akeem Topping added 15 (six rebounds, seven-of-10 effort from the field), Thomas Slaughter 12 (seven rebounds, three steals), including a seven-of-eight effort at the foul line; Keivondre Watford eight (eight rebounds, three steals), Nichols and Hakeem Wesley, four each; Jontrae Conley three, and Steven Fuller, Tejiminon Leatherwood, and Bobby Wrench, two a piece. Two Grambling State (La.) transfers paced The River in Yondarius Johnson of Plain Dealing, La., and Zane Knowles of Nassau, Bahamas. Johnson, a Southern University signee, scored a game-high 23 (two steals), while Knowles added 13 and hauled in a season-high 16 boards. Quentin Watkins out of Lanier High in Jackson scored nine (five assists, five rebounds, three steals), Carpenter eight, Mike Henry of Wayne County High six, Daterris Rogers of Wayne County High three, Daron Bell of Bay High (seven rebounds) and Raheem England of Decatur (Ala.) High, two each; and Jeremy Moore out of Jim Hill High in Jackson and Marcus Rawls of Picayune High, one each. East Central was hit an impressive 81.5 percent (22 of 27) at the foul line to Pearl River 56 percent (14 of 25), while the Warriors were 23 of 61 (37.7 percent) from the field to the Wildcats 26-of-61 (42.6 percent) effort. From three-point range, ECCC was five of 16 (31.3 percent), while PRCC was two of 12 (16.7 percent). The River had the advantage on the boards with 43 rebounds (16 offensive, 27 defensive) to East Central 40 (15 offensive, 25 defensive), while ECCC committed 15 turnovers to the PRCC 19. Men action tips off state tournament play on Monday when North No. 1 East Mississippi opens against South No. 4 Jones County at 1 p.m., while Pearl River faces North No. 3 Northwest Mississippi at 3 p.m. before South No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast faces North No. 4 Itawamba at 6 p.m. and North No. 2 Holmes takes on South No. 3 Hinds at 8 p.m. The EMCC-JCJC winner takes on the PRCC-NWCC winner at 3 p.m. Wednesday, while the MGCCC-ICC winner faces the Holmes-Hinds winner at 8 p.m. The men championship is set for 8 p.m. Thursday. In women kicking off Tuesday, South No. 1 Co-Lin faces North No. 4 Northeast Mississippi at 1 p.m., followed by North No. 2 Holmes against South No. 3 Jones at 3 p.m., North No. 1 Itawamba against South No. 4 East Central at 6 p.m., and Pearl River against North No. 3 Coahoma at 8 p.m. The CLCC-NECC winner faced the Holmes-JCJC winner at 1 p.m. Wednesday, while the ICC-ECCC winner faces the PRCC-CCC winner at 6 p.m. The women championship is set for 6 p.m. Thursday.

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