No. 16 Pearl River claims ’22 Region 23 championship
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
CLINTON, Miss. — A.E. Wood Coliseum at Mississippi College has provided the Pearl River men's basketball team with a lot of incredible memories over the past few years. The 16th ranked Wildcats got to add another great memory Saturday night as PRCC defeated Meridian to claim its third region 23 title in four years and an automatic bid into the NJCAA Tournament March 14-19 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The 24-team bracket will be released Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. at NJCAA.com/network.
"The story of our team all year has been if one guy goes down, two or three players step up," head coach Chris Oney said. "This team is just so unselfish. They all do whatever it takes to win the game. I'm so proud of these guys. When we started the year 4-2, no one thought that we would be here, but we never lost faith because we knew what we had in our guys. I've had so many special moments since I've been here and it's because of guys like this."
FIRST HALF Pearl River (24-3 overall) was on fire to open the night, jumping out to a 6-2 lead over Meridian (22-7). The eighth point of the night got the Wildcat faithful on their feet. Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi) caught an inbound pass, fooled the Meridian defenders with a fake pass, and drove to the basket for a vicious two-handed slam.
PRCC continued to pour it on, eventually taking a 15-7 lead after J.D. Allen (Brookhaven; Wesson) knocked down his first 3-pointer of the night.
MCC then flipped the script, going on a big run to take a 23-20 lead, forcing a Pearl River timeout.
The timeout seemed to work for the Wildcats as they ended the half on a 14-0 run. The run began with the Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi) and Cameron Brown (Hattiesburg) show. Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi) squared things up at 23-23 after converting an old-fashioned 3-pointer. Brown then got a teardrop shot to fall to put the Wildcats back on top. Wilkens struck again right after as he lost a defender with a crossover and nailed a jumper. Brown's 3-point shot from the corner was true to give the Wildcats a 30-23 advantage. Dylan Brumfield (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) closed out the run by getting a big jumper to fall, sending Pearl River to the break with a 34-23 lead.
SECOND HALF Carlous Williams (Hattiesburg; Harrison Central) provided the Wildcats with a spark just a few minutes into the second half of play, slamming home an alley-oop out of the hands of Jaronn Wilkens. Earl Smith, Jr (Jackson; Lanier) then was able to get a 3-pointer to fall and Brown faked out two defenders to get an easy layup, making the score 45-27.
Soon after, Jaronn Wilkens and Williams had another string of good plays. First, Wilkens didn't give up on a play and was able to pick up an offensive rebound before putting it right back up and in. Williams then got the crowd to its feet by taking a pass, driving inside, and throwing down a forceful one-handed slam dunk, pushing the Wildcat lead out to 52-42.
The Wildcats were able to ice the game down the stretch, receiving perfect trips to the line from Smith and Brumfield as well as an old-fashioned 3-pointer from Williams.
Pearl River eventually ended the game with a 69-57 victory, sending them to the NJCAA Tournament.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING Jaronn Wilkens was all over the court for the Wildcats, tallying game-highs in both points and rebounds with 20 and 11, respectively. He also had four assists and a steal in the contest.
Brown was second on the team in scoring with 12 points and Jariyon Wilkens finished third with 10. Smith had nine points, seven assists and five rebounds on the night.