POPLARVILLE, Miss. —No. 4 Pearl River pulled out another win Thursday night when they defeated rival Gulf Coast 75-69. The win is the Wildcats third in a row over the Bulldogs and 33rd overall. While Pearl River never trailed, Gulf Coast played a gritty second half to make it a game the Wildcats had to earn.
The Wildcats (5-0 overall; 5-0 MACCC South) started the game off hot with a 19-7 run. Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) scored 8 of the Wildcats' 19 points, four of which came from an impressive put back and dunk that were back-to-back.
"Earl wasn't playing selfish," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. "That was just our offense tonight."
The Wildcats headed into halftime up 14 after a thunderous alley-oop from Smith to Jaquan Ewing (Clarksville, Tenn.; Kenwood) that gave the Wildcats the 39-25 lead.
CLOSING THE DOOR
The second half proved to be more competitive as Gulf Coast clawed back to make it a 58-55 game with about 7 minutes to go in the contest.
The Wildcats answered right back going on a 14-3 run. A put back from Cameron Brown (Hattiesburg) followed by a put back from Ewing and 3-pointer from Smith gave the Wildcats a 12-point lead with 3:25 left in the game.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to six in the waining minutes of the contest but it was too little too late.
"No matter how many players they have we knew it was going to be a fight," Oney said. "We tried to pick the tempo up to try and get some easy baskets early because I knew we'd need a cushion down the stretch. It's going to get sloppy at the end like that because we can't go five on five in practice so we can't work on those situations and condition the way we need to condition. I was proud of our guys for their fight to give us enough of a cushion at the end so that the bad possessions and missed free throws didn't cost us."
LEADING THE WAY
Smith led the Wildcats in points with 24 and also had a double-double after grabbing 10 rebounds.
"He's special. He's a warrior," Oney said. "I'm glad he was on my team tonight."
Jaronn Wilkins (Biloxi) was second on the team in points with 17. Ewing finished third with 14 points and also finished with a double-double after snatching 10 rebounds.
Jaryion Wilkins (Biloxi) also had 12 points for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats go on the road Monday when they take on Southwest in Summit. After that, they travel to Hinds next Friday. Both games are set to start at 6 p.m.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be general admission at home basketball games. Following guidelines set by the state of Mississippi, PRCC is limiting attendance to only players, coaches, spirit squads, the PRCC pep band, gameday personnel and family members. No Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference or Mississippi High School Activities Association passes will be accepted.
HOW TO TUNE IN
Most games will be broadcast at PRCCMedia.com/Gold but in some instances where multiple teams are at home, PRCC will also have a feed on its auxiliary channel at PRCCMedia.com/Maroon. Fans who have Roku or Amazon Fire devices can also watch the Wildcats on their televisions by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from their app store.
Home games will also be broadcast on WRJWRadio.com.