POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 10 Pearl River made a statement Tuesday, easily dispatching LSU-Eunice 96-61 in the final game of the Wildcat Classic.
The Bengals (6-2 overall) entered the week receiving votes in the NJCAA Top 25.
"I'm proud of these guys, especially on a back-to-back night like this which is tough because we had a lot of energy last night and exerted it against Baton Rouge but to come back and follow with that same energy and intensity says a lot about the makeup of these guys," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said.
The game started out close enough. Cameron Smith (Okolona) gave PRCC (5-0) its first advantage at 4-3 with a thunderous dunk and then hit a 3-pointer on the Wildcats' next possession to edge the home team ahead 7-5.
The Bengals made several runs mid-way through the first half, first scoring 7 of 9 to go ahead 17-15, and then ripping off seven straight to build a 24-22.
Oney called a timeout to calm his players and whatever the reigning Region XXIII Coach of the Year said worked because the Wildcats proceeded to rip off 11 straight points.
"I can't say on here what I said in that timeout. Crazy thing about it was Tae (Hardy) just had a look in his eyes," Oney said. "I knew we had an advantage inside. I thought we took a few quick ones that we should not have but Tae just said 'alright enough of this let me go' and he got the hot hand."
Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe Prep) started the run with a 3-pointer. Following a basket and two free throws from Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi), Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) threw down a dunk off of a fast break pass from Smith. St. John's signee Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) dunked on PRCC's next possession to cap PRCC's run with a 33-24 advantage.
After both teams traded baskets, PRCC closed out the half with another sizable run.
On a night of highlights, one of the most impressive was arguably a 3-pointer from Hardy. As PRCC got out in transition, Smith had to lunge out of bound to keep a ball in play. He found Hardy, who stepped back to lose the defender and then stuck true on his long-range bucket.
Moore closed out the half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put PRCC ahead 49-30.
"We have so many guys who can dribble, pass and shoot," Oney said. "It makes it easy when you have Isaih (Moore) who gets most of the rebounds and can bust it and start the break and the point guards can fill the lane and then we're off and running.
"We have to be able to take advantage of that."
The Wildcats picked up where they left off in the second half with a 13-0 run, holding the visitors off the score sheet for the first four minutes and 59 seconds of the frame as they built a 62-30 lead.
The play of the second half for PRCC was a dunk from Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi), where the freshman caught a pass from Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier), bounced it to himself off the floor and then slammed it home for a 71-38 advantage.
The loss was the worst of the season for LSU-E, as the Bengals were held to a season-low 61 points and also surrendered a season-high 96.
Jaronn Wilkens earned his first collegiate double-double, leading PRCC with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
"Jaronn's, Jaronn. It's so funny when I first got here him and his brother were like seven years old and they were in the stands here watching their bigger brother play here," Oney said. "They have really good support from there family. Jaronn is a good player and a tough kid.
"He's taken a role because he could have pouted because we don't have him on the wing but he's a kid that just wants to be on the floor and he plays hard for him and I'm just so proud of him."
Hardy and Allen scored 12 and 11 points respectively. Jariyon Wilkens and Smith scored 10 apiece. Hardy led PRCC with five assists.
Pearl River returns to action Monday and Tuesday to participate in East Central's Thanksgiving tournament. PRCC will play Bevill State at 3 p.m. Monday and then face Taylor Prep at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The Wildcats will close out the fall semester by opening MACJC play on Dec. 9 at Copiah-Lincoln. PRCC won't return home to Marvin R. White Coliseum until Jan. 9, when they play East Central.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events are broadcast on PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store.