POPLARVILLE, Miss. — On the night No. 16 Pearl River celebrated one title, the Wildcats clinched another.
Prior to tipping off against Meridian at Marvin R. White Coliseum on Thursday the Wildcats held a banner reveal to celebrate their 2017-18 MACJC State Championship — the 16th title in program history.
The celebration carried on throughout Sophomore Night as PRCC up-ended Meridian 72-61 to clinch a share of the MACJC South Division Title with Jones College (18-5 overall, 12-2 MACJC). Because of the league's tiebreaker, PRCC (23-2, 12-2) will be the second seed in next week's MACJC State Tournament in Ellisville. The tournament's bracket is expected to be announced by the league Friday morning.
Adding to Thursday night's excitement was the celebration of the team's seven sophomores: Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah), Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon), Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches Central), Eric Thornton Jr. (Canton; Murrah); Chris Agbo (Jos, Nigeria), Kirk Parker (Vicksburg) and Jvari Thigpen (Jackson; Callaway).
"It's kind of bittersweet," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said of his upperclassmen being honored in between games. "It's actually bitter-bitter I should say. It's bitter because you have so much going on that you hope the guys don't forget we have a game to play. And then you have people coming out that haven't been able to get to a lot of games so the guys are trying to show them what they have been missing. It's tough to play these games, but I'm glad our kids came out and got it done."
Having built a program-best 18-0 start to the season, the Wildcats got the best of their opponents most nights as teams looked to be the first to knock off the mighty Wildcats. Because of the team's success this year, Oney feels like his Wildcats will be prepared once the men's portion of the MACJC Tournament opens Tuesday.
"It'll be a lot of fun," he said. "It's fortunate for us that we have gotten to watch 23 fun ones already because teams have given us a state tournament game all season long."
BUILDING A LEAD
There was a slow burn to the start of the game as Pearl River gradually built an advantage over the Eagles (8-14, 3-11). PRCC led 12-4 at one point, but MCC pulled within two at 18-16 with just over nine minutes to play in the first half. The Wildcats regrouped and went on a tear to close the half with a 40-22 advantage. The Eagles never came close to giving PRCC a scare in the second half.
"It was because of good defense. I liked how we were flying around," Oney said of a 15-0run late in the second half. "Meridian is very well coached. We wanted to speed the tempo up and make it a more athletic game. Instead of letting them grind us, we wanted to make separation."
LEADING THE WAY
Thornton led Pearl River with 18 points on 73 percent shooting from the floor. He added six rebounds and an assist in the dynamic performance.
"I tell Division 1 coaches he can play," Oney said. "It doesn't matter what defense you throw at him, he finds a way to get in the paint and get the ball up to the rim and guys like that are extremely hard to find."
Brim and James rounded out PRCC's double-digit scorers with 17 and 10 points respectively. The two also led Pearl River in assists, with James dishing out six and Brim collecting three more. Agbo scored nine points and tied Thornton with a team-high six rebounds.