Pearl River men hold off Meridian comeback bid
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — It was a tale of two halves for the Pearl River men's basketball team Monday afternoon against Meridian, but the Wildcats held firm to walk away with a 78-69 win over the Eagles.
"I felt like we were clicking on all cylinders in the first half," head coach Chris Oney said. "It was beautiful basketball. We shared the ball, got in the gaps, and made the extra pass. We knew coach James Green's team wouldn't go down easy. They made it tough for us in the second half, and our rhythm was off.
"They always have four guys on the court that can make shots at all times. They are never out of a basketball game."
The Wildcats (18-2 overall; 5-0 MACCC) had their work cut out for them in the early going against Meridian (10-9; 2-4) as the teams were deadlocked at eight apiece after five minutes of play.
Dorien Goodman (Dallas, Texas; Lancaster) sparked Pearl River after stellar play on both ends of the court. He plucked the ball away from a nearby player before accelerating down the court for a coast-to-coast layup, 10-8. MCC added three more points, but PRCC's run continued and eventually saw the Wildcats take a 20-11 advantage.
Things grew to 24-13 soon after, with Dyllion Redmond (Jackson; Callaway) dishing a pass to Ta'Zir Smith (Woodbridge, Va.; Virginia Academy), who got a shot to fall despite being fouled. Smith promptly stepped to the line and drained his free throw.
Ahead 27-18, PRCC embarked on another impressive 10-point run. The run was started with a nifty move underneath the basket by Goodman that allowed him to lose his defender and score. On the next offensive possession, PRCC had a fastbreak opportunity. Davion James (Brandon; Northwest Rankin) raced down the court, fired a bounce pass to his left for Austin Green (Sicklerville, N.J.; Timber Creek Regional), and he threw down a vicious slam. The final basket in the run saw Green throw a pass over the shoulder of his defender to Ezereke Dawson Jr. (Plant City, Fla.) for a two-handed jam.
Although the Wildcats didn't hit a 3-pointer during the first 17 minutes of the night, they struck for a pair before the half ended. Dawson Jr. fired the ball to the corner to James for the first 3-pointer. Seconds later, Smith drained a step-back fadeaway 3-pointer to extend the lead to 47-23. PRCC took a 47-26 lead into the break.
The second half felt much different, as Meridian seemingly couldn't miss.
Pearl River grew its lead to 24 points early, thanks to plays by Green and Dawson Jr. Green pivoted twice under the basket to find some space before kissing a layup off the glass. Dawson Jr. followed by cleaning the glass for an offensive rebound before going right back up and throwing down a two-handed slam, 54-30.
Meridian didn't lay down despite the huge deficit and started to slowly claw its way back into the contest, cutting the Wildcat lead down to 11 points at 62-51. Redmond kept the lead at 11 points soon after. The sophomore was fed the inbound pass out beyond the arc with four seconds left on the shot clock. He tried to look for other options before deciding to bank a 3-pointer off the backboard and in, 67-56.
MCC's efforts to come back were continuously stifled as Green was electric throughout the remaining five minutes of the game, picking up nine more points before the contest ended to help PRCC secure a 78-69 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
It was another electric night for Green (pictured below) as he matched his career high with 34 points. He also hauled in seven rebounds.
"He's so powerful," Oney said. "He's a unique player because if you put a small guy on him, he goes right through. If you put a big guy on him, he can use his burst to get around him."
Smith finished his night with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. Dawson Jr. added in 12 points and three rebounds. Dawson Jr. had 10 points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats hit the road Thursday for an important rivalry game against Gulf Coast. Tipoff in Perkinston is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be livestreamed at MGCCCBulldogs/watch.
The game can also be heared at 1320-AM, 106.9 FM or WRJWRadio.com.