Pearl River earns No. 1 seed in NJCAA Tournament
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — As the nation’s lone unbeaten team, Pearl River’s men’s basketball team had a pretty good idea what Monday would reveal.
All the same, it was a nice confirmation when the Wildcats were announced as the No. 1 seed in the 73rd NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
(link to NJCAA Division I Bracket)
The Wildcats will play the winner of 16-seed Moberly Area (27-6) and 17-seed NOC-Tonkawa (28-4) at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 17.
The winner of Pearl River’s game advances to play at noon on Thursday, March 19.
The big reveal during the NJCAA Selection Show was met with applause and cheers from the team and attendees at PRCC’s watch party in the Marvin R. White Coliseum.
“This is great for the college and our program. It’s something I think the kids and all of their families should be excited about,” Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. “We’ll need to be ready to prove that not only should we have the No. 1 seed, but we are amongst the elite programs in the country.”
Monday’s announcement is just the latest accomplishment in a year of milestones for the Pearl River men’s basketball team as the Wildcats achieved a 22-0 regular season; became the first MACJC team to maneuver through the regular season, MACJC Tournament and Region XXIII Tournament undefeated; claimed both the MACJC and Region XXIII titles; was the final Division I program with an unblemished record; and climbed from a No. 11 preseason ranking all the way up to No. 2.
With Monday’s announcement, Pearl River boasts two programs that have earned the No. 1 seeds in their respective tournaments in the last calendar year after the PRCC baseball team was selected as the top seed in last year’s NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Oklahoma.
LAST TIME IN HUTCH The Wildcats (28-0 overall) made it to the Round of 16 in their NJCAA Tournament debut last year.
Led by 22 points from C.J. Brim Jr., PRCC made a statement with an 83-69 victory over Williston State College.
Pearl River made a second half rally in their second round matchup but ultimately fell to Odessa College 69-61.
A year ago, the Wildcats were just excited to be included in the big dance. This year, the Wildcats are packing a different mindset all together when they leave for Kansas.
“It’s more of a business trip. We’re going up there to see if we can win enough games to win the last one on Saturday,” Oney said. “When I took over, the goal, hard work and the dream was all geared toward making it to Hutch. Then after last year when we made it, I went back and thought what’s next; obviously what’s next is winning more games than we won last year at Hutch and to win a National Championship. Every day that has been our focus and everything we have done has been geared toward taking that next step, which is winning it all.”
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING The Wildcats boast the nation’s second-best scoring defense, holding opponents to 60.4 points per game. Offensively, the Wildcats are averaging 85.4 points per game and feature three players in double figures. Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe Prep) leads the squad with 16.6 ppg, while Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) and Rodgerick Brown (Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova) are scoring at 15.9 and 13.1 clips respectively.
Moore also leads the Wildcats on the glass, averaging 9.1 rebounds a game. Hardy’s 3.7 assists per game are tops on the team.
MATCHUP Moberly Area and NOC-Tonkawa play Monday, March 16 at noon.
Moberly Area, located in Moberly, Missouri, won the Midwest District to earn an automatic bid into the tournament. The Greyhounds won seven in a row to qualify for the tournament. They average 94 ppg and boast five players who average double figures. Moberly Area was ranked 17th in the last NJCAA poll.
The NOC-Tonkawa Mavericks finished the regular season ranked ninth in the NJCAA. Although they lost in the Region 2 Semifinals, NOC-Tonkawa earned an at-large entry into the field of 24. The Mavs average 92.5 ppg as a team and are led by Demaree King, who scores at a 19.5 clip.
NEW COMMITMENT Another Wildcat knows where he’s going to play next year at the next level. Forward Cameron Smith (Okolona) committed to Cal State-Bakersfield late Sunday night.
He joins St. John’s signee Moore, Southern Miss commit Hardy and Tulsa commit Brown.
Smith is one of three members of the 2019-20 team who helped the Wildcats advance to the NJCAA Tournament a year ago.
Smith is averaging 7.9 points per game. He’s also second on the team with 6.7 rebounds per game.
In PRCC’s Region XXIII Championship Game, Smith played all 40 minutes.
HOW TO TUNE IN All tournament games will be streamed on NJCAATV.com via the NJCAA’s subscription offerings. Pearl River will also broadcast the games with Carey Meitzler and Mark Franklin calling the action on WRJW 1320 AM and WRJWRadio.com.
The championship game will be broadcast nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
The 2020 NJCAA Tournament runs March 16-21 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kansas.