|No. 12 EMCC Lions stopped by Pearl River in MACJC Basketball Tournament for third straight year|
FULTON – The third time proved not to be the charm for East Mississippi Community College’s 12th-ranked men’s basketball team. Yondarius Johnson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped a game-ending 9-0 run to lift the Pearl River Wildcats to a 66-63 victory over the Lions in Wednesday’s semifinals of the MACJC State Basketball Tournament being held at the Davis Event Center on the Itawamba Community College campus.
The Lions’ early exit in this week’s ICC-hosted tournament marks the third straight year they have been bounced from the MACJC State Basketball Tournament by Pearl River Community College. The Wildcats also eliminated EMCC, 61-52, in the MACJC semifinals last season in Wesson en route to a state runner-up finish. Two years ago in Scooba, PRCC spoiled the Lions’ bid for their first state championship on the hardwood since 1933 with a 61-58 triumph over the host team in the finals.
This time in Fulton, the Lions appeared to be on target to snap that string when Tradarrius McPhearson’s deep 3-pointer beat the shot clock buzzer and gave the three-time MACJC North Division champions a 63-57 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the contest. EMCC was perhaps just a rebound away from advancing to Thursday’s state championship game before things began to unravel.
On Pearl River’s ensuing possession following McPhearson’s basket, the Lions couldn’t secure the rebound off a missed three-point attempt. The loose ball ended up with the Wildcats, and Daron Bell converted the offensive rebound bucket with 35.8 seconds still to play. Timely free-throw shooting by PRCC coupled with sloppy ball-handling by East Mississippi down the stretch jointly contributed to the Wildcats’ improbable comeback.
A pair of successive backcourt turnovers by EMCC resulted in a pair of made free throws by both Marcus Rawls and Jeremy Moore. Moore’s conversions accounted for the sixth tie of the contest, evening the score at 63-63 with 20.2 seconds left on the game clock. After getting the ball past midcourt, Lion sophomore playmaker D.J. Evans overthrew a pass to Dione Milsap in the corner in front of EMCC’s bench to set up the game-ending dramatics.
With only 6.1 ticks left in regulation and the game still tied, the Wildcats took the ball the length of the court. As the seconds ticked away and overtime seemingly looming, PRCC’s Johnson swished his fade-away 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and return the Wildcats to the state championship contest for the third straight year. Pearl River fell to South Division rival Mississippi Gulf Coast in the state finals last year on the Copiah-Lincoln campus.
Pearl River led for most of the opening half, taking a 31-26 advantage into intermission. The Wildcats remained on top for the first six minutes of the second stanza until Curtis Hall’s three-point play gave the Lions a brief 38-37 edge at the 13:39 mark – their first lead in the game since starting 1-0. The lead changed hands four more times before a 13-3 EMCC run seemingly put the Lions in the driver’s seat.
Johnson paced a trio of double-digit scorers for Pearl River with a game-high 24 points, including 5-of-10 shooting from beyond the three-point arc. Quentin Watkins and Zane Knowles followed with 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the 14-10 Wildcats.
McPhearson, a product of Raymond High School, led the Lions with a season-high 18 points, including 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Deon Bedford, from West Oktibbeha County High School, and sophomore transfer Colin Borchert added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for EMCC.
Head coach Mark White’s 20-4 EMCC Lions will take the No. 1 seed into next week’s NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Clinton. The two-time defending region champions will begin play in the three-day men’s tournament (March 8-10) on Thursday at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 February 2012 )|
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