|No. 12 EMCC punches NJCAA tourney ticket with 78-64 regional win over rival Itawamba|
CLINTON –- For the second straight year, East Mississippi Community College will be represented in national tournament play, as the 12th-ranked EMCC Lions punched their ticket to the upcoming NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship with Thursday’s 78-64 victory over Itawamba in the title game of the NJCAA Region 23 Championship played at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
Now 26-5 overall after notching their fifth consecutive series win over MACJC North Division rival ICC, head coach Mark White’s 2009-10 Lions will represent District 15 in this year’s national tournament, set for March 16-20 at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan. This will mark East Mississippi’s first-ever national tournament appearance in men’s basketball competition. A year ago in Salina, Kan., head coach Sharon Thompson’s 2008-09 Lady Lions earned the first national tourney berth for the EMCC women’s program since finishing as national runners-up in 1978.
After trailing 14-6 eight minutes into the game, the Lions scored eight unanswered points to even the score en route to outscoring the Indians by a 32-11 margin to hold a comfortable 38-25 halftime advantage. Freshman playmaker Deonte Alexander, from Nashville, led the way in the opening half with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Following a nine-point effort in the first half, preseason NJCAA All-American CoCo Ware took a hard spill at the 17:46 mark of the second half while driving to the basket. After nearly turning a complete flip in midair while drawing a blocking foul on an ICC defender, Ware landed awkwardly on his right side. The Starkville native stayed in the game to convert his free throws, but came out at the next stop in action and proceeded straight to the locker room. After being checked, Ware re-entered the contest at the 12:21 mark. He went on to tally 10 second-half points, including 6-of-7 shooting from the line, to lead EMCC’s quintet of double-digit scorers with 19 points. Selected to the all-tournament team, Ware scored 80 points over the three days in Clinton.
Despite having their lead cut to seven points on four occasions during the second half, the Lions’ advantage was never seriously challenged over the final 20 minutes even with Ware out of the game. With the Indians being held to 38-percent shooting from the field on the night, EMCC took advantage of aggressive drives to the basket and was able to pad the margin at the charity stripe. In the second half alone, the Lions converted on 23-of-35 free throws after earning just three trips to the line in the opening period.
Also picked for the all-tournament regional team, EMCC’s Alexander finished the title game with 17 points on 6-of-10 field-goal shooting. With his third double figure-scoring effort in the last four games while coming off the bench, freshman forward Richard Dixon followed with a dozen points. Having gone undefeated against Itawamba in their two-year East Mississippi careers, sophomores Terence Bennett and John Harris added 10 points apiece for the winners.
Concluding the 2009-10 campaign with a 20-10 overall mark, the Indians of ICC were led by Melvin Morgan’s 13 points.
For the EMCC athletics program as a whole this past year, the school has now claimed regional titles in both men’s and women’s basketball competition, as well as having collected a program-first state football championship over the past 12 months.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 March 2010 )|
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