River sweeps past Meridian

Published 6:58 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

POPLARVILLE — The men’s and women’s basketball teams at Pearl River Community College are finishing the regular season in fine fashion.

PRCC swept MACJC South Division foe Meridian here Thursday in Shivers Gymnasium with an impressive pair of wins.

The Lady Wildcats captured their first South Division title in two decades with their hard-fought 72-66 win over the Lady Eagles, while the Wildcats dominated the Eagles 64-43 and iced a berth in Feb. 24-27’s MACJC State Tournament, which will likely be played at Itawamba CC in Fulton.

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The PRCC women, 15-3 overall and 10-2 in division play, will enter the event as the South’s No. 1 seed. The River men improved to 15-5 and 8-4. Meridian’s women dropped to 14-6 and 7-5, while its men are now 5-16 and 3-8.

The top four finishers in the MACJC North and South Divisions will earn berths in the tournament.

ICC’s men lead the North at 8-2, followed by East Mississippi (7-2), Northwest Mississippi (7-3), and Coahoma (7-4), while East Miss’ women lead the North at 9-1, followed by Itawamba (8-2), Mississippi Delta (7-3), and Northwest Mississippi (6-4).

In the South, Jones County and Mississippi Gulf Coast’s men are tied for No. 1 at 9-3 each, followed by Pearl River and Southwest Mississippi (6-6). Copiah-Lincoln, which wraps its regular season next Thursday at Pearl River, is still in the post-season hunt at 5-7.

Meridian, Southwest Mississippi, and Jones County are in a three-way tie for second in the South at 8-4 a piece behind Pearl River, while Co-Lin remains in playoff contention at 7-5.

In Monday’s women’s game, the Lady Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and led for the entire first half. PRCC built its lead to as much as 13 points — 25-12 — with 5:10 left before the break. Meridian managed to cut The River’s lead to 34-27 in the final minute before the Lady ’Cats took a 37-28 lead at the intermission.

The Lady Eagles opened the second half with an impressive 9-0 scoring run in the first two minutes to take a 39-37 lead — their first of the game. Shanta’ Echols of Sumrall High, who finished the game with 22 points and 18 boards — both team highs — answered with a pair of free throws to tie it up, but MCC responded 9-4 scoring surge to go up 48-43 with 15:40 left. Even thought PRCC tied it up at 48-48 a minute later, Meridian remained on top for the next eight minutes, building its lead to as much as eight points — 59-51 — with 8:55 remaining.

Deantra Darjean, a Prairie View A&M transfer out of Yates High in Houston, Tex., hit a basket at the 6:08 mark to knot things at 59-59, while Essence Pulliam out of Forest Hill High in Jackson banged in a two with 4:50 left to give Pearl River the lead. The Lady Eagles managed to tie it up at 66-66 with just over three minutes remaining, but Kalisha Washington out of Murrah High in Jackson sank a pair of foul shots to give the Lady Wildcats the lead for good.

Kristen Sampson led Meridian with a game-high 23 points.

Besides Echols, who also dished off three assists and was 10 of 11 at the foul line, Washington scored 18 (three treys, four assists, four steals), while Darjean added 16 (12 rebounds, four blocks, two assists).

In the men’s game, the Eagles amazingly held the Wildcats scoreless for the first 10:10 of the contest, while building a 9-0 lead.

Irishma Bowie of Morton High nailed a three with 9:50 left before the break to finally put The River on the scoreboard. Bowie’s trey kicked off a 16-11 run by the Wildcats to pull to within one in the final minute, while Southeastern Louisiana signee DeAngelo Coleman of South Pike High hit a basket at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 21-20 edge at the intermission.

Pearl River came alive in the second half, building its lead to double digits in the opening five minutes. Troy State (Ala.) signee Jeremy Hollimon of Gulfport High hit a trey with 14:50 left to make it 37-27 and kicked off a 10-2 scoring surge to build PRCC’s lead to 47-29 with 10:52 left. Hollimon banged in two more threes and a pair of field goals during the run, before adding another trey to make it 50-33 with 9:08 remaining.

Corey Brister led Meridian with 12 points.

Hollimon paced PRCC with a game-high 26 points, including a six-for-eight effort from three point range, while Kaven Bernard out of Assumption High in Napoleonville, La. (four steals, and Coleman (six assists, five rebounds, two treys), 10 each. Meridian swept Pearl River in previous meetings played Jan 21 in Meridian with the Lady Wildcats falling 71-43 and the Wildcats were defeated 71-70.

PRCC returns to the hard court when it travels to South Division rival Jones County Monday for 5:30 p.m. (women) and 7:30 p.m. (men) games) before closing out the regular season at home against division foe Copiah-Lincoln Thursday, Feb. 20.