POPLARVILLE — Pearl River coach Chris Oney challenged his players ahead of Thursday's road contest at East Central. If his Wildcats could hold Roti Ware under his 24.7 scoring average and win by more than 15 points, they'd earn a day off.
Well, hopefully they enjoy their Friday away from the court.
The No. 17 Wildcats played like a nationally ranked team out of the gate and with the exception of one stretch early in the second half only got stronger as the game progressed, routing the Warriors 99-66.
With the win, PRCC improves to 11-0 overall and 2-0 in MACJC play.
"I kind of got myself in trouble. I knew this would be a tough game," Oney said of his challenge. "With this one game, even though we won by 33 points, I thought we learned as much as we did from the Coahoma game, which was our closest game of the season.
"I'm proud of them. It was fun. We had a chance to learn some things. We had a lead and they came back and we had to rebuild the lead and then hold on."
PRCC built an early 15-7 advantage that was punctuated with a Chris Agbo (Jos, Nigeria) thundering dunk. The Wildcats continued to attack the Warriors (7-4, 0-2) and held a 48-33 advantage at the break.
The closest ECCC got within PRCC was a stretch early in the second half, where the Warriors pulled within eight, 52-44.
From there, however, it was virtually all Pearl River as Oney's team clamped down, allowing the coach to eventually empty his bench.
"If we get stops, we're capable of going on big runs," Oney said. "When they made their run, it was because we quit playing defense. We let them be the aggressor and just stood back to see what would happen. That's some immaturity and we've been off for four weeks.
"Hopefully we learn from this and do better moving forward."
NO WARE TO GO
Whether it was the temptation of a day away from the practice court or the motivation to retain an unblemished record, PRCC completely shut down Ware. The Warrior star finished the game with just six points, with four coming off free throws.
"For us to be successful, we can't beat ourselves and we can't allow the other team to beat us by doing what they do best," Oney said. "Roti is the guy where in every game they've won, he has led them in scoring. That was a key."
LEADING THE WAY
Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) had another big performance for PRCC, tying for the team lead with 16 points.
"Kelvin is a super player and outstanding young man," Oney said. "He came in (to PRCC) highly thought of and was recruited by every junior college in the state. It was hard for him to accept early that he was going to have to wait his turn and be patient. He hung in there and now he's seeing the fruit of his labor."
Like Allen, LSU transfer Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches Central) also scored 16. He added a team-high 12 rebounds to register his third straight double-double.
"When he scores, you sit back and say, 'man, he could do that every time.' He's just a really good player," Oney said. "Last game he had 27 and tonight he had 16. He just kind of finds the flow of the game and whatever the game needs from him that night, he's a willing participant."
Three more Wildcats hit double figures on the scoresheet, with two more in striking distance.
Eric Thornton Jr. (Canton; Murrah) overcame early struggles at the free throw line to finish with 13 points. LaGarious White (Ridgeland; Brandon) also scored 13, while Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah) added 10. C.J. Brim (Tupelo; Shannon) and Agbo finished with nine and eight points, respectively.
"I know it sounds cliche, but they have bought into it," Oney said of the team's selflessness. "A lot of the guys are close. When I get onto one, the other 13 look at me like I better not go any further because they're taking up for one another.
"They enjoy seeing one another have success."
Pearl River returns to action Monday with a big rivalry game at Marvin R. White Coliseum against Jones College. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start.