Pearl River dispatches East Central to advance in Region 23 Tournament
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — A common theme under the guidance of head coach Chris Oney, the Pearl River men’s basketball team has advanced to the second round of the Region 23 Tournament after picking up a hard-fought, back-and-forth victory over a stout East Central, 90-79. The victory helps the Wildcats advance to the second round for the sixth consecutive season.
“This game was indicative of our entire season,” head coach Chris Oney said. “We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve been fighting trying to find our way. We’d think we got it figured out, then we’d lose a game we shouldn’t.
“All of that doesn’t matter this time of year. Everyone thinks you need to be playing your best basketball in the playoffs. I don’t think that’s all of it. You need to be on the same page throughout the locker room and your stars have to play like stars. Tonight, I think ours did.”
East Central (15-12 overall) got off to a hot start in the contest with an early 8-0 run. Pearl River (18-7) wasted no time getting back into the game as Cam Brown (Hattiesburg) knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help bring PRCC within two points at 10-8.
The Wildcats pulled within six points, 23-17, when Jermahri Hill (Bessemer, Ala.; Berkmar) drew the Warrior defenders and passed off to Ayub Nurhussein (Hamilton, Ontario.; Toronto Basketball Academy) for a 3-pointer.
The tide seemed to have turned for the Wildcats around the midway point of the half. Nurhussein knocked down a pullup jumper which was followed by Dylan Brumfield (Oak Grove) pulling down an offensive rebound and putting it back up for a basket. Brown pulled the Wildcats within one point after he stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup. PRCC snatched its first lead of the night with 7:50 remaining in the frame and the Wildcats did it in a big way as Brown dished off to Brumfield in the corner for a 3-pointer and a 28-26 advantage.
PRCC built its lead out to 33-26 after two big dunks. The first saw Hill time his jump perfectly and intercept a pass from the Warriors. The freshman guard rushed down the court and threw down a rim-rattling two-handed slam. The next big play was on an alley-oop connection between Brumfield and Nurhussein. Brumfield waited until the perfect moment to lob it up and in one motion,
Nurhussein flew in, caught the ball and slammed it down for a 33-26 advantage.
A string of eight consecutive made free throws down the stretch from Brown, Brumfield and Hill allowed the Wildcats to enter the midway point with a 48-35 advantage.
Cam Brown (Hattiesburg) throws down a monster two-handed slam in Pearl River's 90-79 victory over East Central in the first round of the Region 23 Tournament. (PHOTO: Trenton Gascho)
Early in the second half, Pearl River used defense to create some offense. The Warriors went in for a layup, but Brown swatted the ball back down for a block. Brumfield picked up the loose ball, dashed down the court and laid the ball off to Hill for a layup, 56-42.
Carlous Williams (Hattiesburg; Harrison Central) extended the Wildcat lead out to 60-51 around the 12-minute mark in the second half, getting an off-balance tear drop shot to fall.
Stout defensive play by the Wildcats helped create more offense down the stretch. A lobbed inbound pass by the Warriors was taken away by Brown. Brown sprinted down the court turned around and gave the ball to Hill who threw down a tomahawk slam for a 66-55 lead.
As the clock ticked down near the seven-minute mark, PRCC went ahead 71-62. The lead was aided by a 3-pointer from Williams and a pair of free throws by Brown. Brown earned the trip to the charity stripe when a technical foul was issued to the Warriors for having six players on the court.
East Central sliced the Wildcat lead to six points, 71-67, by knocking down a 3-pointer through a foul and converting the subsequent free throw. PRCC built its lead back out, but the Warriors roared back to trail by only two points, 75-73.
PRCC pulled away late, using a Brumfield fadeaway jumper, an offensive rebound and putback by Williams and a Brown layup to build out an 88-77 lead before winning the contest 90-79.
Brumfield finished with game-highs in points (22), rebounds (13) and assists (5). His 13 rebounds were a season high.
Brown collected 20 points, three rebounds and three assists. Williams had 17 points and four rebounds. Hill rounded out those in double figures, finishing with 16 points, four assists and two rebounds.
“That’s just what we’ve come to expect with these guys,” Oney said. “They have to be the ones to step up and if they don’t, our season’s over. These guys are talented and tough enough to do it.”
The Wildcats travel to Scooba on Wednesday to take on East Mississippi in the second round of the Region 23 Tournament. The game will be livestreamed at EMCCAthletics.com/watch.