River comes up short in MACJC title bout

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FULTON Miss. Gulf Coast rallied in the final five minutes of its state championship game with Pearl River to take a 61-56 come-from-behind victory and successfully defend its men title against the Wildcats for the second straight year here Thursday in MACJC State Tournament action at Itawamba Community College Davis Event Center.PRCC led all the way until the Bulldogs grabbed a 52-50 edge with 4:12 left. The Wildcats managed to regain two one-point leads in the final two minutes, but MGCCC prevailed.Gulf Coast also defeated Pearl River 64-61 for the state men championship a year ago.The Wildcats opened the game in spectacular fashion jumping out to a commanding 15-3 lead when Daron Bell of Bay High pulled off a three-point play at the 15:28 mark of the first half. But the Bulldogs responded with an impressive 23-12 scoring run over the next 11 minutes to cut The River lead to 27-26 with 6:11 left before the break.PRCC held MGCCC scoreless and managed to add three more points during the remaining time to lead 30-26 at the intermission.The Bulldogs again pulled to within one in the opening minutes of the second half when Jeffrey Simmons banged in a three, but the Wildcats answered with an 8-0 scoring surge, capped by a Bell trey, to build their lead to 40-31 with 14:59 remaining.Slowly, but surely, Gulf Coast began chipping away at The River lead and with 5:06 left, Angel Matias pulled off a three-point play to cap a 19-10 run to knot it up at 50-50, then drilled a two a minute later to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the night.Pearl River managed to regain the lead at 54-53 and 56-55 in the final three minutes, but MGCCC prevailed when it tallied the game final six points.Yondarius Johnson, a Grambling State (La.) transfer from Plain Dealing, La., led PRCC with a game-high 20 points (five rebounds, two treys), while Bell added 13 (eight rebounds, four assists, two treys), Zane Knowles, a Grambling transfer from Nassau, Bahamas, 10 (five rebounds; Josh Carpenter of Oak Grove High seven (three assists), Quentin Watkins out of Lanier High in Jackson four (four steals), and Jeremy Moore of Wayne County High one.Justin Childs and Matias paced Gulf Coast with 15 points and 11 rebounds each, while Guy Payne added nine (five rebounds), Jeremiah Dunnings eight, Ice Asortse six (six rebounds), LaKendrick Evans five, and Jeffrey Simmons three (three assists).The Bulldogs hit 37.7 percent (20 of 53) from the field to the Wildcats 32.7 percent (18 of 55), while Pearl River was five of 20 (25 percent) from three-point range to Gulf Coast three-of-10 (30 percent) effort. From the foul line, PRCC was 15 of 21 (71.4 percent), while MGCCC was 20 of 53 (37.7 percent).Gulf Coast dominated the boards with 47 rebounds (20 offensive, 27 defensive) to Pearl River 31 (12 offensive, 19 defensive), while PRCC committed 14 turnovers to MGCCC 20.Pearl River and Miss. Gulf Coast split during the MACJC South Division regular season with the Bulldogs taking a 75-64 victory Jan. 26 in Poplarville, while the Wildcats were 81-80 winners in overtime Feb. 20 in Perkinston.Twenty-first-year PRCC head coach Richard Mathis has won six MACJC titles his seventh overall. Mathis has led his PRCC squads to championships in 1994-95, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2003-04, and 2009-10; as well as a women title at East Mississippi in 1977-78 and a sixth men championship at Northeast Miss. in 1980-81.Pearl River men and women will participate in the Region 23 Tournament set for next Wednesday through Saturday at Mississippi College in Clinton.