PERKINSTON, Miss. — Pearl River's women faced a tall challenge at rival Gulf Coast on Tuesday. Instead of withering under the pressure, Coach Scotty Fletcher's Lady Wildcats put their we-not-me attitude to work and toppled the Lady Bulldogs 72-65.
"We grew up tonight," Fletcher said. "I thought our defensive effort and discipline was key to our success tonight."
PRCC (10-4 overall, 3-2 MACJC) opened the game with a 9-5 advantage, but Gulf Coast (7-5, 3-2) soon built a commanding 25-12 advantage that bridged the two quarters.
Each team proceeded to make runs, but the Lady Wildcats methodically chipped away at the deficit.
Gulf Coast held a 37-30 advantage at the midway point and pushed its lead to 42-32 to open the second half. Then commenced the comeback. Where PRCC failed to make baskets in the first half, the Lady Wildcats caught fire — particularly from behind the 3-point arc.
The tipping point was an and-one dagger on a Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) long-range make, which put PRCC back ahead 52-51 for the first time in a long time.
"To me that's the sign of a good basketball team when you get down like that on the road in this environment," Fletcher said. "Three things that separate us right now: We won't quit, we're all believing in the same thing and we have some toughness about us.
"Tonight that showed."
Pearl River may have caved under similar pressure earlier in the season and relinquished the lead. Tuesday, the Lady Wildcats used Linzy's four-point play to jumpstart a 13-0 run and PRCC never looked back.
"These girls have been putting up shots and buying in," Fletcher said. "They've been in the gym and consistent with their effort. We've seen a different level of commitment since we came back from Christmas and that's why the ball is going in."
SCORING IN BUNCHES
The Lady Wildcats converted 34 percent of their 3-pointers, with Linzy and Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) each nailing four. The aforementioned sharp shooters also led PRCC with 15 points apiece. Gabby Brown (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.; Choctaw) and Elexis Peyton (Jackson; Provine) added 11 and 10 points apiece. Alanna Smith (Picayune) wasn't far off the pace with nine points.
Fletcher was particularly proud of Linzy's performance as the freshman guard has transformed into one of the team's go-to scorers.
"I get to the office this morning at 7:30 and usually (men's player) Cedric Brim (Jr.) is in there. I look up, and it's Pooh," Fletcher said. "She was in there Saturday. She was in there yesterday. She has really grown up and bought in."
The scorers weren't the only leaders Tuesday for PRCC. The Lady Wildcats worked for 12 offensive boards and 26 overall. Brown had a team-best seven overall; Peyton pulled in five offensive boards and Dywana Parker (Gulfport) added six.
"How about Dywana with her six rebounds? Those were huge," Fletcher said. "All those little things in a game like this makes the big things."
Meah Monroe (Reserve, La.; East St. John) only had two rebounds, but Fletcher was proud of how she helped to infiltrate Gulf Coast's post presence.
"Meah takes every matchup every night so personal,: Fletcher said. "It really matters to that kid. I love her. She brings her lunchbox to work every single day and she's relentless on the boards."
Pearl River has a quick turnaround, hosting Southwest on Thursday at Marvin R. White Coliseum. The 5:30 p.m. contest will be broadcast on WRJW 1320 AM and livestreamed at PRCCAthletics.com.