No. 12 Pearl River falls in MACCC/Region 23 Championship tilt

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, May 25, 2021

PERKINSTON, Miss. — No. 12 Pearl River played to the final whistle Sunday but wasn’t able to overcome No. 9 Jones College, falling in the MACCC/Region 23 Championship 4-1. 

The match was hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast at Bary Thrash field.

Now the Wildcats’ post-season fate is left to a committee as the NJCAA will announce Thursday who earned the four at-large bids in the NJCAA tournament.

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“We’re optimistic. I feel our resume speaks for itself with the quality of opponents we have played,” Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. “We played a difficult schedule and I think we showed we deserve to continue playing.”

To make it to the championship match, PRCC had to beat Itawamba in Fulton in penalty kicks and then knock off No. 6 MGCCC on its home pitch. 

The Bobcats (12-4 overall) came out as the aggressor early in the match but Andre Nicholson (Kingston, Jamaica; Clarendon College) earned the best scoring chance in the opening minutes. With JC up field, the Wildcats (11-4-1) sprung Nicholson on the counter. Nicholson raced toward the goal but his attempt was turned away by the keeper.

In the 23rd minute JC sent a player in on goal, but John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) stayed with the forward and was able to come up with the save. Seven minutes later Nicholson put a header on goal off a Max Matsenbaugh (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus) pass but the attempt was stopped.

Near the end of the half, the Wildcats were shown a red card. The infraction put PRCC a man down for the remainder of the match. 

JC had a prime opportunity three minutes into the half as the Bobcats sent a cross in from the left side. Bowman dove to get a hand on the ball, but it fell to the feet of a Bobcat. Luckily for PRCC, the forward slipped, allowing Bowman to recover.

The Bobcats broke through in the 62nd minute, potting a goal from a scrum in front of the net. As the Wildcats began to spread out more to find an equalizer, JC pounced again just five minutes later by hammering home a rebound.

PRCC broke the shutout in the 78th minute when Tres Ray (Poplarville) earned a penalty kick. Mohamed Diallo (Gulfport) stepped to the spot and smashed his kick under the crossbar for his sixth goal of the season.

The Bobcats immediately responded, scoring in the 78th minute, and then added on another in the 84thto put the match out of reach.

“We had chances. Even when we went down we didn’t look bad. We held them no problem. They weren’t getting opportunities, but eventually they were able to break us down and got a goal. They were able to capitalize on the fact we had one less player,” Gallant said. “We were good enough to play with them, but once we gave up the goal we were forced to open it up even more. We were either going to score a goal or give up a goal. We had our chances.”

Asked about the season as a whole, Gallant said his team is trending in the right direction — but not because of its record.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction but it’s not what most people might consider successful. If you look at the character of the majority of the boys, if you can’t have that kind of character from here on out you don’t belong in our program,” he said. “I didn’t talk to the boys one time this season about winning because it’s not about winning. It’s about them developing and becoming better players and better people. I’ve been saying it all season long and you saw the work we put in all the way through the game.

“There’s a difference in the character of these boys which sets the tempo for the program for the next few seasons.”