WESSON The 15th-ranked Pearl River Wildcats pulled off a wild one in opening-round action of the MACJC State Tournament here Tuesday, taking a hard-fought 92-83 overtime victory over scrappy Northeast Mississippi to advance to Wednesday semi-final round. PRCC, South Division No. 2 seed and reigning state champions, eye a rematch of last year state title bout Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. against seventh-ranked East Mississippi, the North No. 1 seed, in Graydon L. Mullen Coliseum on the Copiah-Lincoln CC campus. A year ago, The River won a 61-58 thriller over East Miss for the Wildcats fifth state championship under head coach Richard Mathis, who is amidst his 20th season with PRCC. EMCC Lions pounded South No. 4 East Central 81-64 in earlier Tuesday action. The Wildcats improved to 20-4 overall with the OT win, which saw a total of 10 lead exchanges and 15 ties during regulation. The Tigers, which ended their season with the loss, finished the year at 10-14. In the first five minutes, the scored was knotted four different times, but Kentari Nettles out of LeFlore High in Mobile, Ala., sank a bucket to snap an 11-11 stalemate and kick off a 13-3 Wildcat scoring run to pump PRCC lead to 24-14 at the 10:27 mark of the first half. Northeast answered with an impressive 23-12 comeback run capped by a Nick Tate three pointer to go up 37-36 in the final seconds for its only lead of the half only to see Troy University signee Emil Jones of North Forrest High hit an awesome buzzer-beating trey to give PRCC a 39-37 edge at the intermission. In the opening two minutes of the second half, Jermaine Hollimon sank a basket to put the Tigers up 44-42 with 18:18 left in regulation and Northeast stayed in the lead for the next five minutes before Marshun McGee out of Bailey Magnet High in Jackson hit his only bucket of the game to tie it up at 51-51. LaBaron McMillian of Pascagoula High followed with a basket to regain the lead for the Wildcats. From that point, the Tigers tied it up eight more times and managed to take a 75-74 edge with 1:28 left off a Hollimon trey. Pearl River led 78-75 in the final minute, but two trips to the foul line by Tyler Pritchard in the final 42 seconds resulted in a 78-78 stalemate at the end of regulation. The Wildcats outscored the Tigers 14-5 in the five-minute OT period. Phillip Crawford out of Murphy High in Mobile accounted for 10 of The River 14 overtime points. Pritchard led Northeast with 30 points (three treys, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals), while Hollimon added 24 (four treys, four steals), Robert Wade 16 (nine rebounds), Nick Tate six, John David Little three, and Daniel Burton and Cederic Janes (six rebounds), two each. Crawford paced the Wildcats with 30 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Jones scored 23 (12 rebounds, three treys, six assists). Nettles scored 13 (eight rebounds), Daron Bell of Bay High 10, Vincent Gable of Picayune High five, McMillian four, Pedro Maciel, a Centenary College transfer who prepped at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, three; and LaKendrick May of Prentiss High and McGee, two each. Northeast hit 44.8 percent (30 of 67) from the field to Pearl River 51.7 percent (30 of 58), while the Tigers were 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) from three-point range to the Wildcats five-of-15 (33.3 percent) effort. NEMCC was 11 of 20 (55 percent) at the foul line, while PRCC was 27 of 40 (67.5 percent). The River won the rebounding battle with 44 boards (13 offensive, 31 defensive) to Northeast 35 (11 offensive, 24 defensive). In other tournament action, North No. 2 Mississippi Delta eliminated South No. 3 Jones County with a buzzer-beating trey and South No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast nipped North No. 4 Itawamba 56-55. In Wednesday men action, Mississippi Gulf Coast takes on Mississippi Delta at 2:45 p.m.; while on the women side, South No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast faces South No. 2 Jones County at 1 p.m. and South No. 1 Copiah-Lincoln faces North No. 2 Itawamba at 6 p.m. The state championship games are set for Thursday at 6 p.m. (women) and 7:45 p.m. (men).
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