Lady Wildcats capture state tourney win

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2014

Special to the Item

FULTON — Pearl River’s Lady Wildcats are two wins away from their first state championship in over two decades after an impressive 63-52 come-from-behind victory over Itawamba in women’s opening-round action of the MACJC State Tournament underway here in ICC’s Davis Event Center.

South No. 3 PRCC, 16-5 overall, will faced off with South No. 1 Jones County (17-7) Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the semi-finals. JCJC blasted North No. 4 Northwest Mississippi (12-9) 91-62 in Tuesday’s quarter-finals.

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South No. 2 Meridian (19-5) eliminated North No. 3 Mississippi Delta (13-10) 85-77 to open Tuesday’s action, while South No. 4 Southwest Mississippi (18-6) followed with a 66-61 victory over North No. 1 East Mississippi (16-8). Meridian will face Southwest in the women’s other semi-final match up at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Against ICC, the Lady Wildcats took the lead one time in the first half, but managed to tie it up three times. Shanta’ Echols of Sumrall High hit an early basket to put PRCC up 5-3 in the opening minutes, but Jayla Chills immediately answered with a pair of foul shots to knot things at 5-5 and kicked off a 14-5 scoring run to built its ICC’s lead to 19-10 — its largest of the first half — off Lytia Coleman’s NBA-caliber three at the 10:45 mark.

Pearl River answered with a 13-4 scoring run, capped by a buzzer-beating basket by Deantra Darjean, a Prairie View A&M transfer out of Yates High in Houston, Tex., to tie it up at 23-23 at the intermission.

Echols’ bucket to open the second half scoring gave the Lady Wildcats a two-point lead and kicked off a 21-12 scoring surge to pump The River’s advantage to 46-35 with 8:30 left.

Itawamba answered with an impressive 11-2 run over the next four minutes to cut PRCC’s lead to 48-46 at the 4:35 mark, but the Lady Wildcats bounced back with a 10-4 scoring surge to build their lead to 58-48 with 1:39 left. Pearl River outscored ICC 5-4 the rest of the way to take the 11-point victory.

Darjean, who didn’t score until late in the first half when she pulled off a three-point play, paced The River with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Kalisha Washington out of Murrah High in Jackson added 14 (two treys), Essence Pulliam out of Forest Hill High in Jackson 10 (eight rebounds), Tamera Williams of Hinds AHS eight (four assists), Echols six (10 rebounds), and Taylor Brister (three assists), an East Central CC transfer out of Lawrence County High, and Vamikka Smith out of Murphy High in Mobile, Ala. (five rebounds), two each.

Chills led ICC with 13 points (two treys), while Latoya Collins scored 12 (six rebounds), Lytia Coleman 11 (six rebounds).

The River dominated the boards with 50 rebounds (21 offensive, 29 defensive) to Itawamba’s 38 (17 offensive, 21 defensive), while the Lady ‘Cats committed 20 turnovers to the Lady Indians’ 19.

On the men’s side, South No. 1 Jones County (20-4), 84-57 winners over North No. 4 Coahoma in opening-round action on Monday, faces North No. 2 East Mississippi (18-5), 73-68 winners over defending state champ and South No. 3 Pearl River (16-7), in Wednesday’s nightcap game at 8 p.m.

Wednesday’s winners will face off for the women’s and men’s championship games at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively, on Thursday.