River splits with Jones

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POPLARVILLE Pearl River Community College split with arch-rival Jones County in MACJC South Division basketball action here Thursday. The Lady Wildcats secured a berth in the upcoming MACJC State Tournament with their shocking 84-62 win over the Lady Bobcats, while the eighth-ranked Wildcats fell 90-86 to fall to second place in the division. PRCC women improved to 9-9 overall and 6-4 in division play, while its men, the reigning MACJC state champions, are now 18-3 and 8-2. JCJC women fell to 15-6 and 8-2, while its men are 11-9 and 6-4. Mississippi Gulf Coast, which visits The River Monday to wrap its regular season, swept Southwest Mississippi Thursday in Perkinston with its women winning 71-41 and its men taking an 84-56. The Lady Bulldogs are now 6-5 in the division, while the Bulldogs sport a 9-2 mark for first place in the South (one half game ahead of PRCC). Pearl River finishes its regular season next Thursday at division foe East Central in Decatur. The Lady Wildcats post-season berth and their victory over Jones County marked firsts for third-year head coach Toby Bush. Our girls have just bought in to what were trying to do, Bush said. And we shot the ball well (56.9 percent from the field). It been quite a turnaround for us over the past couple of weeks. Monday match ups with Gulf Coast are huge for both PRCC squads. The Lady Wildcats still have a shot at the No. 3 seed in the tournament, while the Wildcats can still secure the top men seed. The top four women and men finishers in the North and South divisions earn berths in the state tournament. In the women game, Jones County, which defeated Pearl River 72-61 in a previous meeting in Ellisville, led only once the entire game and managed to tie things up twice in the first half and once in the second. Alayna Bridges of Oak Grove High hit a basket at the 12:05 mark of the opening half to put The River up 19-17 and kicked off a 16-9 run to give the Lady Wildcats a 33-26 advantage their largest of the first half with 2:07 left. The Lady Bobcats bounced back with a 7-1 comeback surge, capped by Tanecka Carey buzzer-beating trey to make it 34-33 Pearl River at the intermission. Carey sank the opening basket of the second half to give the Lady Bobcats their only lead of the game at 35-34 before Kenyatta Epps of Yazoo City High immediately answered with a three pointer. Kianna Harris bucket tied it up at 37-37 before Francheska Bowman out of Choctaw High in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., scored to put PRCC in the lead for good. Bowman basket with 17:10 left kicked off a dominating 35-13 Lady Wildcat scoring run that gave them their largest lead of the game 74-50 with 4:10 remaining. The Lady Bobcats managed to outscore Pearl River 12-10 the rest of the way. Carey led JCJC with a game-high 36 points, including six treys, while hauling in nine rebounds and dishing off five assists both team-high totals. Alecia Autman, Harris, and Alondria Rivers added six a piece, while Mechelle Thomas scored three, Teirro Frost and Sharnay Mills, two each; and Elyssa McKenzie one. Branita Malone, another Choctaw High (Fla.) recruit, paced the Lady Wildcats with a season-high 18 points and game-high 10 boards; while Bowman added 17 (eight rebounds, four assists), Epps 17 (three treys, six rebounds), Bridges eight, Quentessa Bullock of East Marion High and Toy Johnson of Pascagoula High (five rebounds, five assists), seven each; Samantha Gunn out of Velma Jackson High in Canton six, and Eugena Fry out of Wingfield High in Jackson four (four assists). Pearl River hit an impressive 56.9 percent (33 of 58) from the field to Jones lackluster 30.3 percent (23 of 76), while the Lady Wildcats were four of six (66.7 percent) from three-point range to the Lady Bobcats six-of-14 (42.9 percent) effort. PRCC was 14 of 20 (70 percent) at the foul line, while JCJC was 10 of 13 (76.9 percent). The Lady Wildcats also won the battle of the boards with 44 rebounds (13 offensive, 31 defensive) to the Lady Bobcats 41 (25 offensive, 16 defensive). In the men game, PRCC led for most of the first half and held on to a 30-20 advantage with 6:47 left before the break, but the Bobcats outscored the Wildcats 23-11 the rest of the way to take a 43-41 lead at the intermission. After Brandon Givens, who finished the night with a whopping 44 points, opened the second-half scoring with a pair of free throws, LaKendrick Maye of Prentiss High sank back-to-back baskets for the Wildcats to knot things up at 45-45. Over the next two minutes, the lead would exchange hands four times with another Maye bucket giving The River its last lead of the game at 50-49 with 16:40 left. Givens answered with a three-point play to put the Bobcats up for good. From that point, the Wildcats managed to cut the Bobcats lead to two points four times. Phillip Crawford out of Murphy High in Mobile, Ala., sank a pair of foul shots with 1:01 left to make it 88-86 before JCJC went two-for-six at the free throw line in the final minute to iced the win. Besides Givens, who also hauled in nine board and drilled two three pointers, Rico Rankins scored 15 (three treys), Derrious Gilmore 11 (seven assists), Glen Collins nine, Albert peters five, Kenyada Wallace three, Andrew Marshall two, and Kadeem Fleming one. Crawford paced Pearl River with 29 points (six rebounds), while Daron Bell of Bay High added 14, Maye 12, LaBaron McMillian of Pascagoula High nine, Kentari Nettles out of LeFlore High in Mobile eight (seven rebounds), Troy University signee Emil Jones of North Forrest High seven (four assists), Vincent Gable of Picayune High three, Pedro Maciel, a Centenary University transfer who prepped at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, two (six assists), and Marshun McGee out of Bailey Magnet High in Jackson two. Pearl River hit 53.2 percent (33 of 62) from the field to Jones 50.9 percent (28 of 55), while the Wildcats were one of eight (12.5 percent) from three-point range to the Bobcats eight-of-20 (40 percent) effort. PRCC was 19 of 25 (76 percent) at the foul line, while JCJC was 26 of 34 (76.5 percent). The River had 37 rebounds (18 offensive, 19 defensive) to Jones County 26 (12 offensive, 14 defensive). Monday contest marked the second meeting of the two teams this season with Pearl River taking a 62-60 victory Jan. 18 in Ellisville. PRCC returns to action Monday when it hosts South Division rival Mississippi Gulf Coast at 5 p.m. (women) and 7 p.m. (men) game times before wrapping its regular season Thursday, Feb. 17, at division foe East Central in Decatur for match ups at 6 p.m. (women) and 8 p.m. (men). The MACJC State Tournament is set for Feb. 21-24 (Monday through Thursday) at the home court of the South Division women champion.