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EMCC tips off hoops season with wins over Northwest Mississippi

SCOOBA/SENATOBIA — The East Mississippi Community College basketball teams successfully tipped off the 2021 season Thursday evening with MACCC North Division wins over Northwest Mississippi.  The EMCC Lions claimed a hard-fought 77-74 home victory over the visiting Rangers at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum, while the reigning conference champion Lady Lions cruised to a 78-53 road triumph over the Northwest women at Howard Coliseum.

In the men’s season-opening contest, the home-standing Lions battled back from an early 13-point deficit (17-4) to pull within a point (39-38) by halftime on Blake Butler’s 3-pointer.

The competitive second stanza stayed within a four-point spread the entire half with seven ties and five lead changes over the final 20 minutes.

Three minutes into the second half, EMCC’s all-conference forward Jakorie Smith drilled a 3-pointer to give the Lions their first lead since the game’s opening points on a pair of Butler free throws.  Sophomore point guard Danny Washington then converted a steal into a layup to give EMCC a 46-43 lead.

Following three subsequent ties and three lead changes, the Rangers went back up by four points.  Smith answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the night to make it a one-point game (61-60) with 8:47 left in the contest.

After Northwest broke a 68-68 tie on Jaylon Sanders’ trey at the 2:44 mark, EMCC responded with consecutive baskets by freshmen Hunter McCutcheon and Butler to move back ahead, 72-71.  On the heels of the game’s final deadlock (72-72), Butler then found fellow Louisville, Kentucky product McCutcheon for a game-deciding 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining in the season opener.

During the game’s final sequence with EMCC up by a single point, Northwest’s errant inbounds pass was chased down by Washington under the visitors’ basket and converted into the game’s final points.

Smith registered his ninth career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead all scorers.  Washington, Butler and Arecko Gipson Jr. all added 13 points apiece for Coach Billy Begley’s Lions.

Northwest’s quartet of double-figure scorers was led by Sanders’ 15 points.  Starkville’s Forte Prater followed with 13 points.

During the women’s season opener in Senatobia, the Lady Lions rebounded from a 14-11 deficit following the opening quarter of play to outscore Northwest, 19-7, in the second quarter and grab a 30-21 halftime advantage.

The visitors began to take control of the contest late in the third quarter when transfer point guard DenAsia Mitchell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 10-0 run over the final three minutes that gave the Lady Lions a comfortable 55-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

While outscoring Northwest, 23-16, during the final 10 minutes of play, the EMCC women stretched the margin to 29 points (74-45) on Shakira Wilson’s layup following a steal with four minutes left in the contest.  The 25-point final outcome marked the Lady Lions’ 13th consecutive win in division play spanning back to last year’s unbeaten (12-0) division mark that resulted in the program’s first conference championship in 36 years.

Blinn College transfer guard Jenessa Souza paced Coach Sharon Thompson’s EMCC Lady Lions with 14 points in the season opener.  Wilson and Mitchell followed with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while all-conference standout Ja’Mia Hollings narrowly missed recording a double-double with nine points and game-high 13 rebounds.

Kolten Blakeney topped home-standing Lady Rangers with 14 points, followed by Curenity Emerson and Tierra Trotter with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The East Mississippi basketball teams are scheduled to be back in action on Thursday, Jan. 28, against Itawamba Community College.  The 1-0 EMCC Lady Lions are set to make their home season debut with a 6 p.m. tipoff against ICC at Currie Coliseum on the Scooba campus, while the 1-0 Lions will travel to Fulton for a 5:30 p.m. contest versus the Indians at ICC’s Davis Event Center.