POPLARVILLE, Miss. — At least early on, it appeared the Thanksgiving layoff may have contributed to the Pearl River women's sluggish start in their return to the hardwood Friday. The Wildcats fell behind 11-0 but after making a run of their own ended up flipping the script on visiting Gadsden State to claim a 70-52 victory inside Marvin R. White Coliseum.
"Eighteen days. You don't want to blame it on that but I just felt like we were rusty and they were more in game rhythm," Pearl River coach Scotty Fletcher said. "The great thing is the girls got down but they didn't quit."
Gadsden State (5-5 overall) built an early 11-0 advantage and PRCC didn't score until the 4:35 mark until Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) knocked down a 3-pointer to break the skid. After a 3-pointer by the visitors, PRCC (4-1) reeled off 10 straight to close the quarter and took a 15-14 lead into the break.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the second, with PRCC clinging to a narrow 30-28 advantage at halftime.
The third quarter is where the Wildcats really amped up the pressure. The Wildcats led 33-32 early in the frame but out-scored the Cardinals 18-4 to take a commanding 51-36 lead into the fourth.
"I thought we would runaway after halftime," Fletcher said. "We got so aggressive and our hands were so active. That puts teams out of rhythm. That changed the game."
Alannah Turner (Gulfport; West Harrison) was an X-factor for the Wildcats, scoring a career-high 11 points with six assists. She was also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds — another season high.
"One thing I like about Turner is she's very coachable. She didn't have a bad week of prep, but she's so hard on herself that she wants to be good. The last two days her focus and demeanor were really good," Fletcher said. "She's a perfectionist.
"With 11 points, six assists, seven rebounds and four steals with only three turnovers; I told her from Day 1 she's an X-factor. She's fun to coach."
Shania Wright (Clinton) had a big game for PRCC, scoring 11 points with six rebounds.
"I thought her post presence was extremely important tonight," Fletcher said. "With 11 points and six rebounds, she was great tonight. I'm very proud of her."
Pooh Linzy (Clinton) led PRCC in scoring with 13 points. Meah Monroe (Reserve, La.; East St. John) tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) was second on the team with three assists. Alanna Smith (Picayune) tied Turner with four steals. Linzy added three.
The Wildcats have a busy week ahead. PRCC opens MACJC play Monday at Copiah-Lincoln, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Fletcher's crew then travels to Niceville, Florida, to participate in Northwest Florida State College's two-day tournament. PRCC plays the host, ranked No. 2 in the country, on Thursday and then faces DME Academy on Friday.