PRC defeats Natchez 61-59 in the first round of the state tournament

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

CARRIERE — After receiving the ball from an inbound pass with just over six seconds left in the game, Willie Reece drove inside the lane and hit an 8-foot jumper, which gave Pearl River Central a 61-59 victory over Natchez in front of a standing room only crowd Tuesday night.

After time on the game clock ran out, officials decided to put 1.8 seconds back on the clock because they thought Natchez called a timeout after Reece’s shot. After further discussion with the scorekeeper, they found out the Bulldogs were out of timeouts and declared game over.

“After the turnover by Natchez, I told coach (Scott Stephens) I wanted the ball and that I was going to score,” Reece said. “I practice that shot all the time and during the entire play, I believed the ball was going to go in. This is the first time ever we made the second round in the state tournament and right now, I feel great. I dedicate the shot to my brother, Louis, who couldn’t be here on the court with us because of an ACL injury.”

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AJ Banks led the team in scoring with 23 points, followed by Reece with 18 and Caden Thompson, Ethan Henley and Jason Long each had six and Josh Theady scored two.

“Everyone on this team has worked hard and that’s why we were able to win tonight,” Banks said. “I feel great because we are making history at PRC and we are moving on to the second round.”

In the first quarter, Banks scored nine points and Reece scored two, which gave PRC a one-point lead with an 11-10 score by the end of the period.

A 13-2 run led by Izzy Holmes, Charles Credit and Melvin Myles gave the Bulldogs a 23-13 lead with 3:39 left in the second quarter.

After a timeout by Head Coach Stephens, seven points by Reece and a 3-pointer by Banks cut the Devils’ deficit to only two points with a 25-23 score and 1:16 left before halftime.

Before the end of the second quarter, both teams traded baskets and with 10 seconds remaining, Henley scored a 3-point shot, which sent PRC (20-7) to the locker room trailing 29-28.

Holmes and Myles got the Bulldogs off to a quick start in the third quarter and combined for nine points, giving them a 38-30 lead with 4:49 left in the period.

But in the next four and half minutes, the Blue Devils, led by Henley, Banks and Reece, outscored Natchez 13-2, which gave the team a 43-40 lead. Just before the end of the quarter, Credit scored a 3-point shot, tying the game at 43 heading into the fourth quarter.

At the beginning of the final quarter, both teams traded baskets on each end of the court but it wasn’t until about the five-minute mark when back-to-back 3-pointers from Reece and Banks gave PRC a 54-51 lead. Two minutes later, Thompson also scored a 3-point shot for the Blue Devils, giving the team a 57-53 advantage. The four-point lead was short-lived as the Bulldogs continued its offensive rhythm and Holmes tied the game at 59 points with 29 seconds left in the game.

With 20 seconds left in the game, Holmes had possession of the ball but the defensive pressure by Banks forced Holmes to commit a backcourt violation, which gave PRC the ball with six seconds remaining. Reece went on to score the game-winning shot in the following play. The Blue Devils will move on to the second round of the Class 5A state tournament and will travel to Stone High School Saturday night, where the team will face the Tomcats. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m.

“Natchez is a really talented team and if we hadn’t come ready to fight and battle tonight, we would have had no shot of winning the game,” Stephens said. “We did what we needed to do in order to win and survive and I’m really proud of our kids because they have done a great job this year. I’m just glad they get the opportunity to play another game because this has been a wonderful ride and the atmosphere in here tonight was unbelievable. If this place is not rocking like it was, we would have lost the game tonight, they had a major role in our win tonight.”