CLINTON, Miss.— If you play like you practice, Wednesday was proof No. 15 Pearl River got after it over the last week.
Motivated by last week’s semifinal exit from the MACJC Tournament, the reigning state champs played with a purpose, routing Northeast 78-43 in the first round of the Region XXIII Tournament at Mississippi College.
“After last week we have had some wars in practice and I think it carried over to today,” Oney said. “I feel like we played the way we practiced after the state tournament. Our wars in practice — if I had those recorded people would pay money to see them. We really got after it and I thought we were able to bring that over to Clinton with us.”
It didn’t take long for PRCC (23-3 overall) to take control of the game. The Wildcats scored the first two points of the contest. After Northeast jumped ahead 5-4, Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah) and Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) hit back to back threes and the Wildcats never trailed again.
“We need to be motivated because the next time a team scores more points than us the season is over,” Oney said. “Up until this point I think we had a really, really good regular season, one a lot of folks would be ecstatic for, but we went into this season with this week in mind and now that it’s here we have to be ready for it.”
Pearl River built a 31-20 lead going into halftime, with two big points coming in the final minute when Jvari Thigpen (Jackson; Callaway) crashed the board on a free throw miss. The putback brought the PRCC bench to its feet.
“Everybody’s excited for Jvari because he has worked so hard,” Oney said. “He’s one of the guys where if he was on another team he’d be helping them. Our guys recognize how extremely hard he works every day in practice, doing a lot of things people don’t want to do.”
LEADING THE WAY
Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon) had a big start to the second half, including a couple 3-pointers and an old fashioned three-point play when he grabbed a long rebound, darted end to end and was hacked while scoring a layup.
The sophomore, who tied for the scoring lead last year when PRCC eliminated the Tigers in the Region XXIII semifinals, topped Wednesday’s scoring chart with 19 points.
Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches Central) added 12. Kirk Parker (Vicksburg) earned the start at center and led the Wildcats with 11 rebounds. Allen and Rachal each added nine rebounds.
While PRCC ended up shooting 49 percent from the floor in the game, the Wildcats’ defense held the Tigers to 21.2 percent.
Pearl River’s Cedric Brim Jr. is fouled while driving to the basket during Wednesday’s 78-43 victory over Northeast in the first round of the Region XXIII Tournament, hosted at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. (PATRICK OCHS/ PRCC ATHLETICS)
The Wildcats advance to play the winner of East Central and Jones College at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We don’t care who it is,” Oney said. “Tomorrow we’re going to come here, we’re going to play and we’re going to give it our all.”
Prior to leaving Poplarville on Wednesday morning, Oney told his team to prepare to play 120 minutes — the total of three full games.
“Now we’re down to 80,” he said.
The game will be streamed at PRCCAthletics.comand carried on WRJW 1320 AM and wrjwradio.com.
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