Mathis says ‘Cats are in a hole

Published 4:57 am Thursday, December 24, 2009

POPLARVILLE — Pearl River Wildcat head basketball coach Richard Mathis says his 2009-2010 squad have dug itself a hole at the mid point of the season.

PRCC’s men enter the Christmas holiday break off a 60-49 victory over Loyola’s junior varsity (La.) and boast a 7-4 overall mark, but remain winless at 0-2 in South Division play after losses to Jones County (86-83 Dec. 3 in Ellisville) and Hinds (85-81 in overtime Dec. 7 in Poplarville).

Both of those squads are perched at the top of the South Division with 2-0 marks, while East Central and Southwest Mississippi are both 1-0. Copiah-Lincoln and Mississippi Gulf Coast are also winless at 0-2.

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“I guess you could say we’re one of the strongest teams because we’re on rock bottom of the standings holding everybody else up,” Mathis jested. “But we were beaten by two very good basketball teams. Actually, I feel okay about us at this point, but when you go 0-2 in the division, it’s going to take a pretty good rebound on our part to get back into the mix.

“We’re just committing way, way too many turnovers seemingly in every game we play,” he added, noting his team is averaging 20-plus a game, “plus, we’re not shooting the ball well enough to beat good teams.

“You always want your turnovers in single digits, but with our fast-paced game, a 12-14 range is acceptable. But not 20-plus.”

Mathis noted that some changes may be forthcoming in the Wildcats’ game.

“We may be playing a too fast game for our talent level,” Mathis said. “We might have to slow it down and go back to a grind-it-out kind of offense.”

One bright spot is the efforts of freshman forward Phillip Crawford out of Murphy High in Mobile, Ala., who Mathis says has surpassed all expectations going into the season.

“Phillip has really been a surprise,” he said. “He’s averaging about 15 points and 10 boards a game and is playing a lot better than we ever expected him to.”

Sophomore forward Kenderek Washington of Hinds AHS is also averaging double-figure point totals and seven rebounds a game, while sophomore guard Rod Little is playing better as of late, says Mathis.

He also cited the likes of a pair of Wildcat football stars who joined the team just prior to the tip off of the season in forward Emil Jones of North Forrest and point Desmond Ratliff of Canton.

“Emil and Desmond have been a big help,” Mathis said. “Both gives us a bit of flexibility.

“But for us to turn this thing around, we’ve got to protect the ball better and start shooting from the field and free-throw line better,” he added. “Unless we’re able to do those things, we could miss out on the post-season for the first time in a long, long time.”

The top four finishers in the MACJC North and South divisions earn berths in Feb. 22-25’s state tournament.

Pearl River’s men return to action Monday, Jan. 4, with a rematch with Loyola JV at 5 p.m. in Poplarville, then PRCC’s women and men play host to MACJC non-division rival Mississippi Delta Thursday, Jan. 7, at 5 p.m. (women) and 7 p.m. (men) before resuming South Division play against rival Mississippi Gulf Coast Monday, Jan. 11, in Poplarville at the same game times.