Pearl River women preparing for 2021-22 season

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, October 30, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — After a challenging 2020-21 season and with the 2021-22 season just days away from getting started, Pearl River women’s basketball is ready to hit the court.

“I think last year was such a unique challenge,” head coach Scotty Fletcher said. “The thing that I saw last year was a group of girls who were resilient, stayed together and learned to appreciate every day and every opportunity. Despite us having two games in 45 days last year, whether it was covid on our behalf or the other teams, our girls showed a lot of determination and grit. That’s a credit to those girls and their character.

“It’s a true honor to coach them. We’re just excited to get things going.”

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Fletcher feels that the 2021-22 squad has a little different feel than some of his teams in the past.

“Since I’ve been here this team has been the team that I’ve felt the closest to, one through 15,” he said. “They love each other, and I love that. They allow you to coach them hard. This has been one of the most selfless group of girls that I’ve been around.

“I love our attention to detail and I love our competitiveness.”

Veteran leadership was a downfall for the Wildcats last year, but Pearl River returns several second-year players and even two third-year players this season.

“Any time that you can return seven girls that have been within your program who understand your foundation and understand your expectations that makes our job as coaches a lot easier,” he said. “The thing that this team has that we were missing last year is the sophomore leadership. It’s one thing for coaches to hold you accountable, but when they are holding each other accountable it’s special. We’re seeing that right now. They’re working extremely hard. I see a very competitive group that wants to be good. They’re very coachable and determined to get it right.

“They have the confidence that it takes to play in this league.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Otashae Burrage (Carthage; Leake County) and Alesha Temple (Oak Grove) received an extra year of eligibility and are back to lead the Wildcats.

Burrage led Pearl River in scoring last year with 13.1 points per game and pitched in 3.1 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game and 1.4 steals per game. She shot 37.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Temple, who was returning from injury last season, chipped in 2.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 1.1 blocks per game.

“Tae and Alesha are unbelievable young women,” Fletcher said. “I wish I had the opportunity to coach all of our young women for four years, and I mean that. The type of leadership that Tae and Alesha have provided to our girls has been invaluable. The biggest thing that Alesha and Tae have been able to do is show the girls who we are, why we do it, that it works and that you’re going to reap the benefits.”

The Wildcats also return five second-year players in Ty’Mesha Reed (Meridian), Brandy Scott (Hammond, La.), Keshunti Nichols (Pearl), Marcavia Shavers (Biloxi) and Bryanna Taylor (Terry).

Reed finished second on the team in three-point percentage (27.8) and fourth in ppg (8.6). She also averaged 3.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals.

“Ty’Mesha has made the most growth of any player from Year 1 to Year 2 that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Fletcher said.

Scott averaged 7.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals. She led the team in steals, averaging 1.8.

“Last year we needed Brandy to play at the point guard position, so she wasn’t able to play to her strengths,” Fletcher said. “This year we’ve moved her to the wing and told her to attack the basket. I’ve seen a lot of growth and she’s more comfortable.”

Nichols came on strong at the end of the year, finishing third in ppg with 9.2. She also averaged 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 steals.

“Keshunti’s motor is what every player should desire to have,” Fletcher said. “She’s extremely long which is valuable on both ends of the court. She’s aggressive and can disrupt. She continues to grow every day.”

Shavers was second on the team in rebounds, hauling in 6.4 per game. She averaged 6.8 points, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks.

Taylor was a threat defensively and offensively for the Wildcats last season, leading the team in rebounds per game (7.8) and finishing second in points per game (9.4). She also chipped in 1.4 bpg.

“Marcavia and BT are two of the best if not the best post players that I have coached since I’ve been here,” Fletcher said. “Their ability to rebound outside of their area is second to none. They are those bruisers who are true back to the basket players. It is a very comfortable feeling as a coach knowing that we can throw it to them in the paint and they can score, but when the ball is shot on the defensive end, they’re going to get their hands on it.”

In the offseason, the Wildcats announced the transfers of former Northwestern State standouts Anessa Dussette (Houston, T.X.; Manvel) and Tristen Washington (Gonzales, La.; East Ascension).

Dussette led her team in scoring with 8.7 ppg. She also pitched in 4.8 rpg and one assist per game for the Demons. Washington averaged 30.2 minutes per game, was second on the team in scoring with 8.5 ppg and chipped in 1.4 apg.

“It’s very important for our program and it’s great exposure to get these two transfers in,” Fletcher said. “We take a lot of pride in getting our girls to the next level. The great thing about Tristen and A.D. is that they get to come here and also learn from our girls. The insight that they can provide to our girls, showing them that this is what it is like to be a college athlete.

“Their experience is not only at the college level but at the Division I level.”

The Wildcats brought in several talented freshmen this offseason, including TyRaven McGowan (Jackson; Murrah), Raven Smith (Kiln; Hancock), Halle Traylor (Tupelo), Amaijah Smith (Gulfport), Jaliscia Florence (Tupelo). The class is highlighted by Mississippi vs. Alabama All-Star Gabby Collier (Brandon).

“Gabby is the first that we’ve signed who has received that honor,” Fletcher said. “She’s extremely good at shooting the basketball. She has a beautiful shot with great touch.

“I think Gabby is going to continue to grow and learn at the guard position.”

The Wildcats hit the court for the first time Nov. 6 at Gadsden State. Pearl River’s first home game is set for Nov. 11 against Snead State at 5:30 p.m.

Season and single-game tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at

All home Pearl River basketball games are livestreamed for free at Fans who have Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV devices can also watch the Wildcat broadcasts by downloading the “Pearl River CC” channel from their app stores.