State tourney begins for Wildcats

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The postseason begins today for the Pearl River Community College men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats, under the direction of veteran head coach Richard Mathis, plays the last of four semifinal games tonight at Shivers Gym on the PRCC campus. The host team, which won the South Division, is slated to face North No. 4 Coahoma at 7 p.m.

Other first-round men’s games pit No. 2 South seed Jones against No. 3 North team Mississippi Delta at 1 p.m., No. 2 North seed Northwest against No. 3 South team Southwest at 5 p.m., and North Division champ East Mississippi takes on two-time defending state champion Gulf Coast at 3 p.m.

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Semifinals are Wednesday at 5 and 7 p.m., and the championship game is at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Winning the South Division was one of our goals because it brought the tournament to us,” Mathis said. “We’re glad to have it. Our kids can sleep in their own beds and don’t have to travel. We’re hoping the homefield advantage will be a difference.”

Leading the way for PRCC are guards Daniel Grieves of St. Stanislaus and Gulfport’s Jeremy Hollimon, two former All- South Mississippi standouts.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is the two-time defending MACJC men’s basketball champion, but is in win-or-go-home mode as the state tournament begins this week.

The Bulldogs (16-7) are the No. 4 seed out of the South Division, meaning they will take on North champion East Mississippi (17-6) at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. Gulf Coast needs to win to stay in contention for a berth in next week’s Region 23 tournament.

Gulf Coast carried an 11-1 record into the holiday break, but went 5-6 down the stretch following a second foot injury to leading scorer and rebounder Angel Matias. Sophomores Darius Forest, Chris Bilbo and JaMichael Hawkins lead the way for the Bulldogs, combining for 42.8 points per game.

East Mississippi features the state’s top scorer in guard Jarekious Bradley, who averages 22.4 points per game. That total is fifth nationally.

Mathis, who coached the Wildcats to a state title three years ago, sees the tournament as a wide-open affair.

“Everyone wants to put the bull’s-eye on us because we won the south,” Mathis said. “There’s parity in the state. Not much separated the top five teams in both the North and South. Coahoma got into the tournament on a tiebreaker.”

Women’s quarterfinals took place on Monday, and the semifinals will be Wednesday at 1 and 3 p.m., with the finals slated for Thursday at 5 p.m.

The PRCC women did not qualify for the state tournament and their season has ended.