Hot start leads No. 8 PRCC to big MACCC opening win
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Fast starts are what Pearl River have been looking for as of late, and the Wildcats got just that Monday night, using a 27-7 opening quarter to propel them to an 83-50 thumping of Coahoma in the first MACCC game of 2023-24.
The Wildcats never trailed in the contest and have won five consecutive MACCC openers.
"We were so active on defense, and that helped us create some easy baskets," head coach Scotty Fletcher said. "We were locked in and ready to play. The girls were excited for their first conference game. That first conference game is always tough to get.
"I thought we had to be good tonight with our ball movement, and it was phenomenal."
HOW IT HAPPENED
Pearl River (14-2 overall; 1-0 MACCC) smothered Coahoma (8-3; 0-1) in the first quarter to get off to an incredible start, leading 15-5 with 2:36 remaining in the quarter. The run began when Marley Freeman (Brandon) grabbed a rebound, drove straight down the center of the court, and fired a perfect bounce pass to the nearby Taylor Johnson-Matthews (Cleveland, Ohio; Charles F. Brush) for a score. Another highlight of the opening run was provided by Tiir Nyok (High Point, N.C.; Southwest Guilford). Following a miss that took a hard bounce off the rim, the Gardner-Webb transfer came out of nowhere, snatched the rebound and laid it up all in one quick motion.
The Wildcats put things in overdrive afterward, scoring 12 points in just over two minutes. Nyok's relentless effort on defense created a basket as she provided constant pressure before plucking away a pass and scoring. Seconds later, Mikayla Riley (Tupelo) had backed her way into the paint before looking over her shoulder to see Freeman alone on the left wing. Freeman caught a perfect pass and drained a 3-pointer. By the time the final barrage had ended, PRCC headed into the second quarter ahead 27-7.
It appeared as if PRCC would have a massive advantage in the early part of the second quarter. Johnson-Matthews caught a pass from Alexis Arrington (Terry) in the corner and crushed a 3-pointer. A few plays later, Johnson-Matthews looked like a defensive back in football, reading the point guard's eyes, reacting and intercepting a pass before taking it all the way for the score, 34-10.
PRCC's lead eventually grew to 38-15, but a nice surge by the Tigers allowed them to limit the damage and go into the half trailing 42-21.
Freeman's impressive court vision allowed PRCC to score the first basket out of the break when she saw a breaking Riley getting open and lobbing a pass down low for an easy layup, 44-21. Hama'ya Fielder (Philadelphia; Neshoba Central) struck from beyond the arc on back-to-back plays — both with assists by Freeman to extend things out to 53-26. The Wildcats held a 63-32 lead as the quarter finally ended.
The fourth was more of the same for the Wildcats, who secured a massive 83-50 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
Johnson-Matthews finished with a game-high 20 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Riley was second on the team in points with 18.
Fielder and Nyok grabbed seven boards apiece, and Freeman finished with a game-high five assists.