East Mississippi sweeps Itawamba on the hardwood

Published 2:02 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

SCOOBA/FULTON — East Mississippi Community College swept Itawamba during Thursday’s MACCC basketball action, as the No. 19 Lions claimed a 65-51 home men’s victory over ICC at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum and the Lady Lions came away from the Davis Event Center with a 56-52 road triumph over the Lady Indians.

The home-standing EMCC Lions never trailed after jumping out to an early 9-1 lead six minutes into the contest. Sparked by Jakorie Smith’s 16 first-half points, they then closed out the opening half with a 13-4 run to grab a 34-21 halftime advantage.

EMCC maintained control of the game and stretched the margin to 16 points (50-34) on Danny Washington’s three-pointer at the midway point of the second half. Itawamba responded by scoring a dozen unanswered points during a four-minute span to cut the deficit to four points (50-46) with six minutes remaining in the contest.

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The Lions halted ICC’s comeback attempt by scoring eight straight points of their own to bump the margin back up to double figures for good. Two baskets by Smith and a Traemond Pittman triple increased EMCC’s lead to 58-46 with four minutes left.

The Indians would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way, as the EMCC men extended their consecutive series win streak over Itawamba to nine games dating back to the 2017-18 season.

With head coach Billy Begley’s EMCC Lions improving to 16-5 overall and 9-3 in conference play, Smith paced all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. Pittman and Washington followed with 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the winners.

Falling to 10-9 overall and 4-8 within the MACCC, Itawamba was led by Fred Cleveland Jr. and Daniel Mayfield with 14 points apiece.

On the ICC campus, EMCC’s Lady Lions established early control of the contest with an efficient offense and effective press defense throughout the opening half. A pair of Jenessa Souza three-pointers helped give the visitors a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kyunna Thomas’ eight second-quarter points then highlighted a 16-4 EMCC advantage during the second 10 minutes of action that increased the Lady Lions’ margin to 33-12 by halftime.

Following intermission, the Lady Indians began their spirited comeback attempt by outscoring EMCC, 17-15, during the third quarter. With EMCC still comfortably leading, 48-29, after three quarters, the Demetria Shephard-led ICC squad opened the final period on a 17-2 run to cut the deficit to 50-46 by the 2:23 mark.

During a key moment in the contest, Thomas made up for a missed layup attempt on the offensive end by getting back to block a shot and grab the defensive rebound to maintain EMCC’s possession. Siarra Jackson converted the opportunity into two made free throws to put the Lady Lions in front, 52-46, with 1:23 left in regulation.

Down the stretch after climbing back from a 22-point deficit, Itawamba managed to make it a one-possession game (55-52) on R’Daztiny Harris’ put-back basket with 7.9 seconds remaining. EMCC’s Souza then calmly sank 1-of-2 free throws a second later to make it a four-point contest and complete the Lady Lions’ regular-season sweep of Itawamba. Back on Nov. 11, the EMCC women posted a narrow 59-56 home win over the visiting Lady Indians in Scooba.

For head coach Sharon Thompson’s EMCC Lady Lions, 10-10 overall and 7-5 in MACCC play, Thomas led the way with her ninth double-double of the season by netting a dozen points and grabbing 11 rebounds. DJ Williams followed with 10 points for the winners.

Dropping to 12-8 overall and 7-5 within the conference, ICC’s Lady Indians were led by Demetria Shephard’s game-high 21 points, including 19 coming after the halftime break. Harris added 14 points for Itawamba.

Entering the final week of regular-season MACCC competition, the East Mississippi basketball teams will meet Meridian on Monday (Feb. 14). With the EMCC women playing host to the Lady Eagles in Scooba and the Lions traveling to Meridian for men’s action, both contests are scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m.