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One win away

ON THE MOVE: Pearl River’s Taylor Brister drives the goal for two of her 16 points in the Lady Wildcats’84-68 victory over LSU-Eunice in women’s quarterfinal action of the Region 23 Tournament underway at Mississippi College in Clinton. The Lady Wildcats play for a berth in the national juco tournament today, when they meet Southwest Community College in the semifinals. Mitch Deaver | PRCC

ON THE MOVE: Pearl River’s Taylor Brister drives the goal for two of her 16 points in the Lady Wildcats’84-68 victory over LSU-Eunice in women’s quarterfinal action of the Region 23 Tournament underway at Mississippi College in Clinton. The Lady Wildcats play for a berth in the national juco tournament today, when they meet Southwest Community College in the semifinals.
Mitch Deaver | PRCC

One of the biggest games in the history of the Pearl River Community College women’s basketball team will take place this afternoon.

The Lady Wildcats are just one win away from earning a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s National Tournament, after they smacked top-seed LSU-Eunice in the opening round of the Region 23 Tournament at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College Wednesday night.

The 84-68 win moved PRCC into today’s semifinals against Southwest Community College at 2 p.m. The Lady Wildcats are 18-7 overall, while the Lady Bengals end their season at 26-4

Southwest beat East Mississippi 72-63 Wednesday afternoon. The Lady Bears are 20-7 on the season. The winner of this contest grabs a national tournament berth, as both women’s teams in the championship game earns berths this year in a new a rotating scenario between women and men. In the 2015 regionals, both men’s teams in their title bout will earn national berths.

The NJCAA Women’s National Tournament is set for March 17-22 in the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan.

The Lady Wildcats have only been to the JuCo Big Dance once, when they won the region title in 2003 under then head coach Ed Walley.

Wednesday night, the fourth seeded Lady Wildcats trailed 39-37 at the half before bouncing back with a dominating 47-29 effort in the second half to take the lopsided 16-point victory.

The Lady Bengals led early building an 13-5 advantage at the 15:27 mark, but The River women bounced back with an impressive 15-6 run over the next four minutes to take their first lead of the game at 21-19.

LSU-E regained the when Taylor Maricle’s basket gave the Lady Bengals a 24-23 edge before Shanta’ Echols of Sumrall High sank a bucket to give PRCC a 27-26 lead at 5:47 before the break. LSU-Eunice went up by one seconds later before Echols pulled off a three-point play at the 5:12 mark for a 30-28 lead.

After LSU-E tied it up at 30, it was Echols again with a basket to make it 32-30 PRCC and the Lady Wildcats stayed on top until Brooke Richard sank a buzzer-beating three to give the Lady Bengals a 39-37 edge at the intermission.

LSU-Eunice never regained the lead. Pearl River opened the second half with a 23-13 scoring run to build its lead to 60-52 with 12:25 left, but the Lady Bengals answered with a 14-11 comeback run to cut the Lady Wildcats lead to three — 71-66 — at the 5:07 mark.

That was as close as they would get, as The River retaliated with a 13-0 scoring surge the rest of the way to take the 16-point victory.

Echols paced the Lady Wildcats with 22 points, 13 boards, and three blocked shots, all game-high totals, while Kalisha Washington out of Murrah High in Jackson added 19 (five assists, two treys), Taylor Brister, an East Central CC transfer to prepped at Lawrence County High, 18 (four assists), Deantra Darjean, a Prairie View A&M transfer out of Yates High in Houston, Tex., 10 (eight rebounds, two treys, five blocks, two steals), Essence Pulliam out of Forest Hill High in Jackson nine (11 rebounds, two blocks).

Richard (two treys) and Reagan Maricle (eight assists) led LSU-E with 17 points each.

In other women’s quarterfinal action, Miss. No. 1 and MACJC champ Jones County fell to Region No. 7 Copiah-Lincoln 63-58 and Region No. 5 Baton Rouge (La.) eliminated Miss. No. 3 Meridian 80-79.

Former Picayune High standout Tee Myers had seven points for Southwest in its win on Wednesday.

The men’s quarterfinals were played Thursday, with the semifinals set for today as well. Both championship games will take place Saturday night.