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No. 9 Pearl River avenges lone loss in 2 seasons with commanding win

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No buzzers needed to be beaten Thursday night inside Marvin R. White Coliseum. No. 9 Pearl River avenged an earlier one-point loss to Southwest by routing the visiting Bears 89-64.

Following the game, Coach Chris Oney — who now has 101 career wins leading the Wildcats — credited his entire roster for the dominant performance.

“I said at the beginning of the year that I thought everybody on the team could help us win a basketball game because I believe in every last one of them,” he said. “I see their character and work ethic every single day. I tell them don’t ever get too low or too high because everyone’s going to have a moment and when it’s time for your moment, we need you.

“I think that’s what has been happening since the last time we played this bunch.”

Although Southwest fell to 7-9 overall with Thursday’s outcome, Oney said the Bears are a team to watch out for.

“That team doesn’t reflect their record,” he said. “In two weeks, they could be playing in the region championship — they really could.”

OFF AND RUNNING
Trailing 6-3 early on, the Wildcats (10-1 overall; 10-1 MACCC) went on a 6-0 run to jump ahead 9-6. Following a putback from Kedarius Stampley (Fayette; Natchez) and a Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi) bucket, Cameron Brown (Hattiesburg) stole a pass deep in Southwest’s territory and went in for an easy 2.

After the two sides traded buckets, Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi) went the distance on a long Southwest rebound and then scored in the lane for a 15-10 PRCC lead. Following a Bears’ timeout, the visitors jumped out 18-15.

Buckets from the Wilkens brothers followed by a teardrop from Joe Cooper (Olive Branch) in traffic pushed PRCC back ahead 21-18.

Later tied 22-22, Brown drove and kicked a pass out to Ankerion Gross (Sardis; North Panola). The freshman nailed his first of five 3-pointers on the night to give PRCC a 25-22 lead. 

Southwest tied the game back up at 25-25 and then again at 27-27. It was virtually all Wildcats from there. PRCC scored 15 unanswered to build a 42-27 advantage. Gross nailed another 3 off of a kick-out from Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) and later hit another basket from long range to bookend the run and take PRCC into the break.

“He’s a weapon,” Oney said of Gross.

The Bears and Wildcats opened the second half similarly to the first with both teams trading baskets. A 3-pointer from Brown gave the Wildcats a 52-37 lead and started a 14-7 streak.

The 63-45 cushion proved insurmountable for the Bears. 

LEADING THE WAY
The Wilkens led PRCC in scoring, with Jaronn accumulating 19 points while Jariyon tacked on 18. 

“He is a problem on the floor,” Oney said of Jaronn. “He’s so quick and defends with either hand. Now he has gotten to the point where he’s playing with a better base and being strong. 

“He has turned himself into a first team all-league guy.”

Gross wasn’t far behind the leaders, scoring a career-high 17. Smith and Brown rounded out PRCC’s double-digit scorers with 13 and 11 points respectively.

Smith earned a double-double as he dished out 12 assists and also finished with seven rebounds. 

“He’s an amazing basketball player,” Oney said of Smith. “He’s just a natural basketball player and whatever happens in front of him he’s the best I have ever coached at just reacting and doing what’s necessary.”

Stampley led PRCC on the boards with eight.

NEXT UP
The Wildcats are back on the road Saturday, traveling to Utica to play Hinds at 2 p.m. PRCC will visit Jones College on Wednesday at 6 p.m. before concluding the regular season Saturday, March 27 at home against Meridian. Opening tip is scheduled for 1 p.m.