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EMCC splits with Holmes on the hardwood in Monday’s rubber matches

SCOOBA/GOODMAN — Meeting for the third time this season in MACCC North Division action, East Mississippi Community College’s basketball teams split with Holmes during Monday’s rubber matches.  The EMCC Lions had their four-game winning streak snapped by dropping a 73-62 home decision to the Bulldogs at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum, while the visiting Lady Lions got back on the winning track with a 68-54 road victory over the Holmes women at Frank Branch Coliseum.

During previous head-to-head meetings this season, Holmes swept East Mississippi in men’s and women’s action back in February.  Earlier this month, EMCC returned the favor with a sweep of its own to set up Monday’s rematches.

In the men’s rubber match after Holmes had previously won in Scooba (66-63) and EMCC having prevailed in Goodman (75-57), the visiting Bulldogs received a combined 29 first-half points from Brandon Weatherspoon and Kaleb Higgins to mount a 43-29 lead late in the opening half.  The Lions managed to cut the deficit to 10 points by the halftime break on baskets by Jakorie Smith and Blake Butler.

A Makeem Roberts three-pointer at the 14:30 mark of the second stanza further cut into Holmes’ lead, but the Bulldogs answered with six straight points to pull back ahead by a dozen points (59-47) seven minutes into the half.

EMCC’s defensive pressure then forced some turnovers to ignite a 7-0 run that made it a 63-59 contest with five minutes remaining in the game.  That was as close as the Lions would get, however, as Higgins drilled a pair of backbreaking treys down the stretch that all but sealed the victory for the visitors.

Coach Billy Begley’s EMCC Lions, 11-5 overall and 9-4 in division play, were led by Butler and Nick Walker with 13 points apiece.  Smith added a dozen points.

For Holmes, Weatherspoon and Higgins finished with 23 and 22 points, respectively, on combined 8-of-11 three-point shooting between them.  Weatherspoon hit a sizzling 5-of-6 from beyond the arc during his 19-point opening half of play to help stake the Bulldogs to their 14-point lead.

In women’s action on the heels of EMCC and Holmes having claimed home wins during this year’s previous head-to-head meetings (55-44 in Goodman & 67-52 in Scooba), the visiting Lady Lions essentially controlled the women’s rubber match in Goodman after ending the first quarter on an 11-4 run to move ahead, 19-13.

After EMCC extended the lead to double digits during the second quarter on the way to owning a 34-24 halftime advantage, the Lady Bulldogs managed to temporarily cut the deficit to single digits (42-33) on Morgan Williams’ three-pointer with four minutes left in the third quarter.  Ignited by a Ja’Mia Hollings basket at the 3:24 mark, the visitors responded by going on a game-deciding 13-4 run that extended EMCC’s margin to 18 points (55-37) late in the quarter.

As a team, the Lady Lions shot 49 percent (30-61 FGs) from the field for the game, while limiting Holmes to just 33 percent (18-54 FGs) shooting.

Hollings, a West Point product, matched her career high with 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting to lead all scorers.  Coming off the EMCC bench, Amiyah Staples followed with a career-best 12 points on 6-of-12 field goals.  Hollings and Staples added nine rebounds apiece in the winning effort.

Gabrielle Bunch and Williams led Holmes with 19 and 11 points, respectively.

Coach Sharon Thompson’s 9-4 EMCC Lady Lions are scheduled to close out regular-season action by playing host to Northwest Mississippi on Wednesday.  Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Currie Coliseum on the Scooba campus.