River nips Holmes 50-49 to cop semi-final rematch with EMCC in regionals

CLINTON Yondarius Johnson bucket with 1:04 left propelled fifth-seeded Pearl River to a 50-40 victory over Holmes in men quarter-final action in Region 23 Tournament action here Thursday in A.E. Wood Coliseum at Mississippi College. The victorious Wildcats, who improved to 15-11 overall with the win, now take on 15th-ranked and top-seeded East Mississippi in the semi-finals on Friday, marking a rematch of the two teams in just over a week. PRCC stunned the then-10th-ranked Lions 66-63 on Feb. 29 in the MACJC State Tournament semi-finals when Johnson, a Grambling State (La.) transfer from Plain Dealing, La., sank a buzzer-beating three for the Wildcats win. That earned a championship berth for The River, which fell to defending champ Miss. Gulf Coast 61-56. East Miss (20-4) eliminated eighth-seeded Jones County (12-13) 78-68 to open men quarter-final play Thursday, while second-seeded and 16th-ranked Gulf Coast (22-4) fought off seventh-seeded Hinds 69-66, and third-seeded Southern-Shreveport eliminated sixth-seeded Northwest Miss. (12-12) 83-77. The Region 23 semi-finals tip off at 1 p.m. Friday with the second-seeded Copiah-Lincoln women taking on fifth-seeded Meridian at 1 p.m., followed by top-seeded Itawamba women facing sixth-seeded Holmes at 3 p.m. Gulf Coast men faces Southern-Shreveport at 8 p.m. Friday winners earn championship berths with the women title bout starting at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m. The Region 23 champions cop berths in their respective national tournaments set for March 20-24 (Tuesday through Saturday) the women in Salina, Kan., and the men in Hutchinson, Kan. In Thursday Pearl River-Holmes battle, the score was tied twice and the lead exchanged hands twice in the first seven minutes, but Marcus Rawls of Picayune High hit a basket with 12:50 left before the break to snap a 10-10 deadlock and kick off a dominating 20-6 scoring run to pump The River lead to 14 its largest of the game at 30-16 at the 3:59 mark. Holmes responded with an 8-2 run to cut the Wildcats lead to 32-24 at the intermission. The Bulldogs opened the second half with an impressive 16-7 scoring surge to take a 40-39 edge with 9:28 left, but Johnson pulled off a three-point play some two minutes later to regain the lead for PRCC at 44-43. From that point, the lead exchanged hands three more times with Johnson final basket with 1:04 left proving to be the difference. Daron Bell of Bay High paced the Wildcats with 15 points and 12 rebounds (three treys), while Johnson finished with 14 (10 rebounds, three assists, three steals), Jyrus Carriere out of St. Martin High in Biloxi six (five rebounds), Zane Knowles (five rebounds), a Grambling State transfer from Nassau, Bahamas, and Quentin Watkins (10 assists, six rebounds) out of Lanier High in Jackson, four each; Jeremy Moore of Wayne County High three, and Raheem England of Decatur (Ala.) High and Rawls, two each. Dangelo Priar led the Bulldogs with a game-high 18 points (two treys, five rebounds), while Demarcus Lewis added nine (four rebounds, two steals), DeAndre Scott six, Torrance Rowe (three steals) and Daveon Slaughter (six rebounds), five each; Daniel Francis three, Kenitric Gillum two, and Emmanuel Dias one. Pear River hit 60 percent (12 of 20) from the foul line to Holmes 68.4 percent (13 of 19), while the Wildcats were 17 of 45 (37.8 percent) from the field to the Bulldogs 16-of-60 (32 percent) effort. From three-point range, PRCC was four of 14 (28.6 percent), while HCC was four of 19 (33.3 percent). The River dominated the boards with 42 rebounds (11 offensive, 31 defensive) to Holmes 30 (nine offensive, 21 defensive), while PRCC committed 16 turnovers to HCC 12.

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