POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Both Pearl River basketball programs are trending upward. As such, both men's coach Chris Oney and women's coach Scotty Fletcher have decided to challenge their squads once again. The choice is evident by quickly glancing at their schedules, which were released Friday.
"I really believe this will be our toughest non-conference schedule since I've been here," said Fletcher, who has seen his team's win totals increase year over year since his head coach debut in 2015-16. "The biggest thing is you want to challenge yourself ahead of an always rugged South Division schedule.
"We will definitely be battle tested early because of our non-conference schedule."
Likewise, Oney believes his reigning Region XXIII Champion squad needs to be pushed early as he fine tunes the roles on his new-look Wildcats.
"Our non-conference schedule is more challenging that it was last year," he said. "We're going to have to be ready to play from the start. It's going to be challenging. We're going to have to find out early who can step in and fill the voids left by our graduates."
The men open the season the season at home against Delgado on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. They welcome William Carey's junior varsity to Marvin R. White Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and then hit the road for a two-game stretch, playing at Baton Rouge on Nov. 11 and Southern-Shreveport on Nov. 16; the BRCC game is at 6:30 p.m. with the Southern-Shreveport game set for 2 p.m.
Pearl River will then debut its Wildcat Classic, presented by Highland Community Hospital. The two-day event runs Nov. 18-19. The Lady Wildcats will actually open the five-game slate by playing East Mississippi on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. EMCC's men will play LSU-Eunice at 6 p.m., with PRCC's men facing Baton Rouge at 8 p.m.
Day two will feature EMCC and BRCC playing at 5:30 p.m. and the Wildcats hosting LSU-E at 7:30 p.m.
"It's something we've wanted to do ever since we opened this beautiful facility to show off everything we have going on at Pearl River and I think now is the time," Oney said. "To be our first year for the tournament, we have some really good teams, coached by some very good coaches.
"Every game will be a quality region opponent."
PRCC will play in another tournament later in November, playing at East Central Nov. 25-26. The men close out their non-conference slate Jan. 7 with a road game at Delgado at 7:30 p.m.
Fletcher will get a good glimpse at his team nearly a month before the official opener when the Wildcats travel to Frisco, Texas, to participate in the prestigious Dave Neely's Southwest Women's JUCO Showcase, hosted at The Fieldhouse. The schedule has not been finalized, but Fletcher knows his team's two games will reveal a lot about the 2019-20 Wildcats.
"The jamboree in Texas is such a valuable event to go to because of the exposure our girls get plus playing folks from Kansas, Texas and elsewhere," he said.
Like the men, PRCC's women host Delgado on Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m. PRCC then travels to Senatobia to play Northwest on Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. before returning Nov. 11 to host Coastal Alabama-North at 5:30 p.m. After the women's game against EMCC, PRCC hosts Gadsden State at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
"Northwest year in and year out is in the mix and playoff contenders, fighting for the top spot in the North," Fletcher said. "Coastal Alabama-North has continued to be a tough opponent as well."
The Wildcats then visit Niceville, Florida Dec. 12-13 to participate in Northwest Florida State's tournament. The Wildcats play the host school at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 and then turn around to play DME Academy at 5 p.m. Dec. 13.
"It's usually a tough and challenging schedule," Fletcher said. "That will allow us to extend our season another week right before the break."
The women play at Delgado at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 7 and then close out their non-conference slate Jan. 18 with a 2 p.m. tip at Coastal Alabama-North.
The Wildcats open MACJC play on the road at Copiah-Lincoln on Dec. 9. After hosting East Central on Jan. 9, PRCC visits Jones on Jan. 13. The Wildcats will have a two-game MACJC homestand, hosting Hinds on Jan. 16 and Gulf Coast on Jan. 21. After visiting Southwest on Jan. 23, Pearl River hosts Meridian on Jan. 27 and Co-Lin on Jan. 30.
The Wildcats open February with a Feb. 3 meeting at East Central before closing their home-and-home with Jones in Poplarville on Feb. 6. Pearl River then travels to Utica to play Hinds on Feb. 10 before visiting Gulf Coast on Feb. 13.
Sophomore night is set for Feb. 17 when PRCC hosts Southwest. The Wildcats close out the regular season Feb. 20 at Meridian.
All MACJC doubleheaders have a set 5:30 p.m. start for women and 7:30 p.m. for men.
The MACJC tournaments is scheduled for Feb. 24-27 with the winner of the women's north division hosting. The Region XXIII tournaments are set for March 3-6 in Clinton. Ten days later the NJCAA Tournament will kickoff, with the men returning to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the women playing in Lubbock, Texas.
All home games will be streamed at PRCCAthletics.com, with all MACJC action — and select non-conference games — also airing on WRJW 1320-AM.