|No. 12 EMCC Lions top 18th-ranked Pearl River 89-80 in basketball regional semifinals|
CLINTON – Sophomore all-star candidates Jonathan King and Deonte Alexander combined for 52 points to help lead the 12th-ranked East Mississippi Lions to an 89-80 semifinal-round victory over 18th-ranked Pearl River Wednesday afternoon at the 2011 NJCAA Region 23 Basketball Tournament played at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
Reigning NJCAA Region 23 champions, the 23-4 EMCC Lions will face third-seeded Southern-Shreveport, champions of the Miss-Lou Conference, in Thursday’s 8 p.m. championship game with an opportunity to make a second straight appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament, set for March 15-19 in Hutchinson, Kan. The Jaguars of SUSLA defeated No. 7 seed Itawamba, 68-66, in Wednesday’s other semifinal-round men’s contest.
In addition, East Mississippi had the revenge factor on its side in Wednesday’s semifinals, as Pearl River had claimed a 61-52 win over the Lions during last week’s semifinals of the MACJC State Tournament played at Copiah-Lincoln. In that nine-point setback a week ago, EMCC was held to season-low marks in points and field-goal percentage (32.1%) by the Wildcats. PRCC had also knocked off the Lions, 61-58, in last year’s championship game of the state tournament played in Scooba.
Head coach Mark White’s top-seeded Lions used a 14-2 run just past the midway point of the opening half to open up a 36-19 advantage by the 4:30 mark. Alexander, an all-regional tournament selection during EMCC’s title run last year, keyed the spurt with a trio of 3-pointers, while King added a pair of baskets.
“We couldn’t have played any better than we did during those first 15 minutes of the game,” EMCC’s White noted. “We were very prepared to play this game and our guys were extremely focused on executing our game plan.”
With the help of 6-of-13 three-point shooting as a team in the first half, EMCC maintained a 41-32 halftime advantage. King and Alexander led the way through the opening 20 minutes of play with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats, runners-up in last week’s state tournament in Wesson, steadily chipped away at the deficit coming out after the break. An 8-2 Pearl River run shaved the margin to two points (53-51) by the 10:35 mark. Keyed by solid inside play and contributions off the bench, the Lions rebuilt the lead to nine points (64-55) on back-to-back baskets by freshman reserve guard Tradarrius McPhearson followed by a three-point play by King.
“Our big guys really stepped up today and our bench played very well again,” White added. “Jonathan (King) and Millaun (Brown) had some very big rebounds and put-backs for us.”
Once EMCC re-established control of the contest, the Wildcats could not get any closer than seven points over the final four minutes of the game. Hitting 29-of-38 (76.3%) from the line on the game, the Lions sealed the nine-point victory by hitting 19-of-22 charity tosses during the game’s final 2:34. EMCC also benefitted from 17 offensive rebounds for the game, including eight offensive boards by freshman post player Millaun Brown.
King, from Panama City, Panama, registered his 12th double-double of the campaign by adding 12 rebounds to his team-high 27 points – one shy of his season-high 28 points coming at Northeast Mississippi in January. Freshman playmaker D.J. Evans and McPhearson added 14 and 11 points, respectively, to give the Lions four double-digit scorers in the semifinals.
Ending their season with a 22-6 overall mark, the Wildcats of Pearl River were led by Emil Jones’ 27 points. Pedro Maciel followed with 18 points, while Lakendrick Maye and Phillip Crawford each added 11 points.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 March 2011 )|
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