|No. 15 EMCC tops Jones 78-68 in Region 23 tourney opener; Lions to face Pearl River in semis|
CLINTON – The 15th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College made their 10-point halftime lead hold up in claiming a 78-68 victory over Jones County Junior College in Thursday’s opening round of the NJCAA Region 23 Men’s Basketball Tournament being held at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
Coach Mark White’s 21-4 EMCC Lions will look to avenge last week’s heartbreaking 66-63 semifinal-round loss to Pearl River Community College in the MACJC State Tournament, as the two teams square off in Friday’s semifinals of the regional tournament. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday’s 8 p.m. championship contest. Pearl River, seeded fifth, squeezed by No. 4 seed Holmes, 50-49, in Thursday’s first round to advance to the semis.
The Lions will also be looking to duplicate last year’s revenge factor when they fell to PRCC, 61-52, in the state semifinals but rebounded to knock off the Wildcats, 89-80, in the semifinal round of the 2011 NJCAA Region 23 Tournament also held in Clinton.
Having just recently drilled 17 made three-point baskets en route to last week’s convincing 103-70 first-round triumph over the JCJC Bobcats at the Itawamba-hosted MACJC State Tournament in Fulton, the Lions faced a gritty Jones County club in their regional opener. It took a 12-3 run over the final four minutes of the first half to give top-seeded EMCC a 34-24 halftime advantage.
The Bobcats scored 10 unanswered points early in the second stanza to first knot the score at 38-38 and then took their first lead of the game, 41-38, on a 3-pointer by Dontavious Lewis at the 13:27 mark. Following two more lead changes and another tie at 42-42, Jones County tallied six unanswered points to pull ahead 48-43 with 11:17 remaining in the contest.
The two teams battled through three more deadlocks before the Lions re-assumed control of the game with a 7-0 spurt ignited by a three-point play by Curtis Hall. Sophomore post player Millaun Brown also stepped up for the Lions by scoring three of his four baskets during the game-clinching run. This final push by the two-time defending NJCAA Region 23 champions put EMCC back up by nine points (69-60) with 3:04 left in the game.
Despite missing 14-of-25 free throws in the second half, the Bobcats fought until the final buzzer and trimmed the deficit to just five points (73-68) on a three-point basket by Tim Allen with 43.9 seconds remaining on the game clock. With JCJC having to resort to fouling during the final minute of play, EMCC sophomore playmaker D.J. Evans tacked on five more free throws down the stretch to add to his game-high total of 26 points.
While battling leg cramps throughout the second half, Evans hit 10-of-14 charity tosses after intermission and 12-of-16 from the stripe for the contest. The former All-Metro Jackson standout from Brandon High School also shot 6-of-14 from the field, including 2-of-4 from beyond the three-point arc, in addition to handing out four assists.
Transfer forward Colin Borchert, of Phoenix, Ariz., followed with 18 points for the winners. Hall, of West Point, registered his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Brown, a West Bolivar High School product, pulled down a season-high 13 boards to go along with his eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Finishing out the season with a 12-13 overall mark, the eighth-seeded Jones County Bobcats had four players score in double figures, led by Donta Pittman and Allen with 16 and 14 points, respectively. J.J. Bolton contributed 13 points off the JCJC bench and Kelvin Nixon added 11.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 March 2012 )|
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