|EMCC men to meet Pearl River; Co-Lin women to battle Jones for state championships|
SCOOBA – CoCo Ware and Jonathan King combined for 45 points, including 30 after halftime, to help lead the 12th-ranked East Mississippi Lions to an 81-79 overtime victory over the defending state champions of Jones County in Wednesday’s semifinals of the EMCC-hosted MACJC State Basketball Tournament at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.
EMCC’s dramatic home triumph, coupled with 25th-ranked Pearl River’s 79-71 win over No. 2 North seed Itawamba in Wednesday’s other men’s semifinal-round contest, sets up Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. state championship game pitting the respective regular-season divisional champions. Head coach Mark White’s North Division champion EMCC Lions have won 15 of their last 17 decisions dating back to the beginning of December, while the 22-4 and top-seeded Wildcats of Pearl River have prevailed in 16 consecutive outings heading into Thursday’s title tilt.
With head football coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC Lions having claimed the school’s first-ever state football championship this past fall, the East Mississippi men’s hoops program will be bidding for its first state title since the 1932-33 campaign. Pearl River’s most recent state championship in men’s basketball came during the 2003-04 season.
In women’s semifinal-round action Wednesday on the Scooba campus, the Lady Bobcats of Jones County earned an 85-82 win over North Division champions Northwest Mississippi. Second-seeded JCJC, out of South Division, is the reigning state champion, and will take on third-ranked Copiah-Lincoln in Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. championship contest. The 25-0 Lady Wolves of Co-Lin knocked off Jones County twice during the regular season (85-67 & 87-72) in divisional play.
Wednesday’s semifinal nightcap between EMCC and JCJC was tied, 32-32, at halftime before the visiting Bobcats bolted out of the second-half gates with a 15-1 run to take a 14-point advantage (47-33) by the 15:38 mark. The home-standing Lions fought from behind for nearly the entire second stanza, but managed to get into the extra session against a foul-plagued Jones club tied at 68-all.
Despite having four players foul out either in the second half or in overtime, the Bobcats assumed the early lead after regulation with a 3-pointer from Rico Rankins. With King and Ware combining for 11 of EMCC’s 13 overtime points, it was Ware’s pair of free throws at the 1:23 mark and subsequent jumper with 25 seconds left that ultimately put the Lions on top for good. Following Ware’s final bucket, Jones County could only manage a 1-of-2 effort at the line by Nic Combs, as the Bobcats misfired on a pair of three-point attempts and missed two other charity tosses over the final 20 seconds of overtime.
A preseason NJCAA All-American from Starkville, Ware finished with a game-high 25 points – 17 after intermission – while adding four timely steals. A freshman from Panama City, Panama, King scored 13 of his 20 points after halftime, in addition to pulling down a season-most 16 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Nashville native Deonte Alexander and Starkville’s John Harris were also in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the 23-4 Lions.
Falling to 17-9 on the season, Jones County, seeded second in the South Division, was led by Combs and Kendrick McDonald with 22 points apiece.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 February 2010 )|
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