CLINTON Pearl River Community College wrapped its men basketball season with a 65-52 semi-final loss to 16th-ranked East Mississippi here Friday in the Region 23 Tournament in A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus, but 21st-year Wildcat head coach Richard Mathis wasnt screaming sour grapes.Mathis scrappy, freshman-ladened unit were definitely over-achievers in 2011-2012, despite finishing with a 15-12 overall record.Just a week earlier, the Wildcats ousted the same powerful team then ranked 10th in the NJCAA Division I hoops poll that wound up ending their season in the semi-finals of the MACJC State Tournament at Itawamba CC in Fulton via a buzzer-beating three by sophomore Yondarius Johnson of Plain Dealing, La., for a 66-63 victory.”You want to win them all, but if you had told me when we got to Fulton that this bunch would wind up playing for the state championship, I wouldve said you were crazy,” Mathis said. “We were horrible at the start of the season, but we gradually got better and better. In the end, we still werent a good shooting team and that (bad shooting) was a problem all year long.”If we couldve shot better, there no telling what we couldve accomplished.”Pearl River shot a dismal 29.8 percent (14 of 47) from the field in its season finale, while East Mississippi shot 45.1 percent (23 of 51).The East Miss “upset” sent The River men into the state title bout against reigning state champ Miss. Gulf Coast, which prevailed 61-56 to defending its title.PRCC, seeded fifth in the regionals, nipped fourth-seeded Holmes 50-49 in the quarter-finals; while top-seeded EMCC ended eight-seeded Jones County 78-68 to get into the semis.The Lions immediately jumped out to an 8-0 advantage in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the semi-final battle, then put together a 17-11 run capped by a Deon Bedford trey to pump its lead to 25-11 its largest of the first half with 9:22 left before the intermission.The Wildcats were resilient, responding with an 11-0 scoring run to cut the Lions lead to 25-22 at the 5:15 mark. Johnson, a Grambling State (La.) transfer, accounted for eight points, including two threes, during the comeback surge, but EMCC outscored PRCC 11-3 to close out the half with a 36-25 lead.East Miss built its lead to as many as 17 points 57-40 with 4:45 left in the second half, while Pearl River managed to pull to within 10 at 62-52 at the 1:10 mark.Johnson paces the Wildcats with a game-high 19 points (three treys, seven rebounds, three assists), while Josh Carpenter of Oak Grove High added 11 (three assists), Zane Knowles (nine rebounds), a sophomore Grambling State transfer from Nassau, Bahamas, and Quentin Watkins (four rebounds) out of Lanier High in Jackson, seven each; Daron Bell of Bay High four (eight rebounds), and Jeremy Moore of Wayne County High and Derionne Stewart of Picayune High, two each.Tradarius McPhearson led the Lions with 17 (two treys), while Colin Borchert added 15 (eight rebounds), D.J. Evans 14 (six rebounds), Bedford 10 (four rebounds, sthree steals), Milaun Brown four (eight rebounds), Jalen Houston three, and Curtis Hall two.The River hit 26.3 percent (five of 19) from three-point range to East Miss 33.3 percent effort (four of 12), while the Wildcats were 19 of 27 (70.4 percent) at the foul line to the Lions 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) effort.The two teams were neck and neck on the boards with EMCC finishing with 26 rebounds (eight offensive, 28 defensive) to PRCC 35 (eight offensive, 27 defensive); while Pearl River committed 17 turnovers in the game to East Miss 14.East Mississippi went on to claim the regional title from third-seeded Southern-Shreveport on Saturday with a dominating 63-49 victory, while the fifth-seeded Meridian women defeated top-seeded Itawamba 73-69 for the women championship.EMCC and ICC earned berths in the NJCAA National Tournament set for March 20-24 in Hutchinson, Kan. (men), and Salina, Kan. (women).Pearl River third-seeded women team ended its season with a quarter-final 62-48 loss to sixth-seeded Holmes.
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