No. 23 EMCC Lions handle visiting Meridian, 69-51, in men’s hoops action

Published 3:38 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

SCOOBA — The No. 23 Lions of East Mississippi Community College won for the fifth straight time by posting a decisive 69-51 home victory over Meridian Community College during Thursday’s MACCC men’s basketball action played at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.

The home-standing Lions grabbed the early momentum with a 10-2 lead after Jakorie Smith’s back-to-back three-pointers were followed by a Blake Butler slam coming off a Smith steal and assist. The visitors answered shortly thereafter with eight straight points to knot the score at 12-12.

From that point on, EMCC owned the advantage the rest of the way. A 7-0 run capped by another Smith trey midway through the opening half put the Lions in front, 23-15, with eight minutes remaining until intermission.

A pair of baskets by Brandon Ellington keyed a 6-0 Meridian spurt late in the half that narrowed the gap to a single point (25-24). EMCC responded by scoring nine of the last 11 points before halftime, including a put-back basket and a three-pointer by Nick Walker, to take a 34-26 lead into the locker room.

The Lions continued to build on the lead as the second stanza progressed. Danny Washington’s three-pointer four minutes into the half gave EMCC a double-digit lead it would maintain the rest of the contest. Midway through the half, the Eagles cut the deficit to 13 points on a couple of occasions before Butler hit consecutive corner treys to extend the Lions’ advantage to 19 points (60-41) by the 8:04 mark.

Down the stretch, another 7-0 EMCC surge consisting of a Butler drive to the rim sandwiched between a Smith put-back of his own miss and his fourth three-pointer of the game lengthened the margin to 24 points (67-43) with 4:26 left on the game clock.

The Smith/Butler tandem combined to score 42 of EMCC’s 69 points and jointly hit six of the team’s nine made three-pointers on the evening. Smith connected on his first four shot attempts of the game, including a trio of treys, to score 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half. Butler was successful on his last five field goal tries, including back-to-back three-pointers, to finish with a dozen second-half points and 16 for the game.

In dropping to 8-2 overall on the year, Meridian was led by Ellington’s 11 points. Makeem Roberts and Danarius Harper added nine points apiece for the visitors.

Coach Billy Begley’s 8-2 EMCC Lions will close out their pre-Christmas holiday hoops slate with a Monday (Dec. 13) rematch with 15th-ranked Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Two weeks ago (Nov. 29) in Scooba, EMCC earned a thrilling 84-82 overtime home win over the then-No. 10 Bucs. Following a 5:30 p.m. women’s contest between Coach Sharon Thompson’s 4-5 EMCC Lady Lions and the sixth-ranked Shelton State Lady Bucs, Monday’s men’s nightcap is set for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at the Umphrey Center on the SSCC campus.