Pearl River women looking to build off incredible 2022-21 campaign
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Fresh off one of the best seasons in the program’s existence, the MACCC Champion Pearl River women’s basketball team has reloaded and is looking to defend that crown in 2022-23.
“Last year was one for the ages. It was such a memorable year, and we accomplished a lot of things. Sometimes I have to gain perspective of where our program has come from day one of my arrival,” PRCC coach Scotty Fletcher said. “There were so many players that came before our group that laid a foundation.
“Bringing the first conference championship in 28 years and the first Region finals appearance in 19 years speaks volumes about my assistants, our administration, the buy-in from our players and from their parents.”
Fletcher hopes that his 2022-23 squad can capitalize off the momentum created a season ago.
“The expectations for this group are to maximize their ability and capitalize on last year’s success,” he said. “We want to continue to move the program forward in the right direction. We now know after receiving national recognition last year that we are a team that people want to beat, and we have to realize that we have to remain hungry, but we also have to know that the target is on our back.”
The Wildcats return six players from the 2021-22 Conference Championship campaign, including four third-year sophomores. Returning this season are Ty’Mesha Reed (Meridian), Brandy Scott (Hammond, La.), Keshunti Nichols (Pearl), Marcavia Shavers (Biloxi), Halle Traylor (Tupelo) and Jaliscia Florence (Tupelo).
Last season, Reed started 21 out of 28 games for the Wildcats, averaging 5.6 points, a team-high 4.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
“The biggest thing that I’ve seen from her is her work ethic and her maturity,” Fletcher said. “She has great ability to score the basketball. She continues to be a floor general. She shows up and shows up on time. I look forward to her making some more growth this season.”
Scott came on strong for the Wildcats in the final stretch of last season, finishing with 12 points in two of PRCC’s Region 23 Tournament contests. After the year was over, the guard averaged 4.1 points and 1.7 rebounds.
“When Brandy plays free, she plays her best basketball,” Fletcher said. “Last year, I thought you saw some freedom within her game. When she can get downhill, she can create baskets. She’s a phenomenal teammate so I expect big things from her.”
Nichols has been a do-it-all player for the Wildcats across her two seasons. She tallied 9.4 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game last season.
“Her presence on the court and her motor are phenomenal,” Fletcher said. “She’s one of the most versatile players that I have ever coached. She can guard anyone on the court. Her ability, length, size and athleticism are utilized to the best of her ability. There are very few weaknesses in her game.”
Shavers has become a sought-after recruit after an incredible 2021-22 campaign which saw her average 8.7 points and 6.8 rebounds from her center position.
“She makes me look and be a better basketball coach on and off the court,” Fletcher said. “She’s a team captain and is someone that the girls look up to. She has proven herself to be a dominant post player. We have to keep her healthy and limit her fouls so she can be on the court longer. I’d take her over any post player in this league.”
Traylor played in every game for the Wildcats last season, averaging 5.5 points and 1.7 rebounds. Florence finished last season with 1.7 ppg and 2.3 rpg as a freshman.
“Halle has bought into her role of a fearless leader. She’s a knockdown shooter and makes you work on the defensive end,” Fletcher said. “Jaliscia is a great on-ball defender and is disruptive on the defensive end. She creates opportunities on the offensive end. She brings a different factor and has a slasher mentality.”
The Wildcats brought in a pair of Division I transfers this season. Coming to the team are Prairie View A&M transfer Tierra Simon (Houston, Texas.; Heights) and former Winthrop guard J’Mani Ingram.
Simon played in 27 games for the Panthers last season. While averaging 6.8 minutes, the 6-foot-1 Simon hauled in 1.1 ppg and 1.8 rpg.
“Tierra can really stretch the floor and be a complimentary piece to Marcavia inside,” Fletcher said. “She can shoot the ball outside extremely well. Her height and length will allow her to be an elite shot blocker.”
Ingram started 25 out of 29 games for Winthrop last season. She led her team in ppg with 10.9 and finished second in rebounds per game with 5.6. Her 42.3 percent from the field was among the best on her team.
“J’Mani had a lot of success at the Division I level, percentage and statistics-wise,” Fletcher said. “She’s someone who is going to be really good day in and day out in this league. I think playing with these other athletes allows her to expose and play her game which is where she’s going to be her best.”
The Wildcats have just five true freshmen on the team. The group includes Hama’ya Fielder (Philadelphia; Neshoba Central), Alexis Arrington (Terry), Khyla Ragins (Booneville; Harrison Central), Remi Nickey (Choctaw; Newton County) and Zi’A Shields (Lawrence; Newton).
Former 6A State Champion Fielder looks to be a key contributor for the Wildcats.
“Hama’ya shoots the ball extremely well and has an incredible basketball IQ,” Fletcher said. “It’s one of the best that I’ve ever coached. She understands the game and has a great feel for it. She’s a really, really good defender and takes a lot of pride in defense.”
Arrington, Ragins, Nickey and Shields all will factor into Pearl River’s heavy squad rotation.
“Alexis has made the most growth from August to November,” Fletcher said. “She’s a good defender, competes, and is gritty. She’s very coachable and we’ve seen a lot of growth in her game. Khyla understands the point guard position and can score the ball. She can come in and give really good minutes at the position. She understands our offense and what we’re trying to do. Zi’A can play multiple positions inside and outside. She continues to grow. Remi is a ball of energy. She’s going to pressure the ball 94 feet. She’s very fast and can help run the offense while being a defensive specialist.”
Pearl River opens its season Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Southern Union State. The game is part of the Microtel Tip-off Classic which features the Wildcats, Southern Union State, Delgado and Gadsden State.
CASHLESS BOX OFFICE
To help improve traffic flow and fan experience, PRCC athletics box offices will be cashless in 2022-23. Only credit and debit cards will be accepted at the box office. Fans are encouraged to beat the lines and purchase their tickets in advance at PRCCAthletics.com/Tickets.