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We never fell', Pearl River guts out road win over Itawamba

Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director


FULTON, Miss. — Last season, the Pearl River men's basketball dropped a heartbreaking two-point game to Itawamba inside Marvin R. White Coliseum. The Wildcats went into Thursday night's road game against the Indians knowing that it would be a battle and that they wanted to get that taste out of their mouths.


Ultimately, the Wildcats got that and more, gutting out a 72-69 road victory.

"The guys exemplified Wildcat pride to the fullest," head coach Chris Oney said. "There were moments where we could have folded or got out of character, but we didn't. They kept hitting us, and we were wobbling, but we never fell. We gained our composure and footing and pulled it off."

 

HOW IT HAPPENED

Fans could tell where the game was headed from the very start of the night. Over the course of the first 20 minutes of action, Pearl River (17-2 overall; 4-0 MACCC) and Itawamba (17-3; 3-2) tied three times and exchanged the lead three times, with PRCC taking its final lead of the first half off the smooth free throw shot of freshman Davion James (Brandon; Northwest Rankin).


"In the first half, Davion came in, hit a 3-pointer, and made some big plays," Oney said. "He got us settled on offense and had us going."


As exciting as the first half was, the craziness of the second half still couldn't have been predicted. Although Pearl River extended its lead to as many as seven points at 46-39 off a Dorien Goodman (Dallas, Texas; Lancaster) driving layup, there was no quit in the Indians.


Less than three minutes after finding themselves in their largest deficit of the night, ICC battled back to cut the lead to one point before burying a 3-pointer with 12:39 remaining to snatch the lead right back, 48-47.


Pearl River retook the lead instantly as a no-look pass was fired down low to Austin Green (Sicklerville, N.J.; Timber Creek Regional), who promptly laid the ball off the glass for a score, 49-48. The Wildcats maintained the lead for nearly four minutes, but Itawamba still wouldn't go away, squaring the game up at 57 apiece. 


Ta'Zir Smith (Woodbridge, Va.; Virginia Academy) looked as if he had grabbed PRCC some momentum one minute later as the sophomore drove down the court, weaved his way around a few defenders and laid the ball softly off the backboard and through the hoop, 59-57. ICC wasn't phased at all by the momentum switch, though, tying the game up before nailing a 3-pointer to make it a three-point lead. A Pearl River turnover looked as if it had doomed the Wildcats as the Indians grew their advantage to five points, 66-61.


Thankfully for Pearl River, big-time players make big-time plays. Cedquavious Hunter (Como; North Panola) doesn't do it often, but the guard received a pass on the right wing and began driving in toward the hoop. As he got closer, a defender crashed inside. Hunter went up for a layup attempt, drew some contact, and despite being fouled, he flipped the ball up into the air, and it fell through the basket. The free throw was basically a guarantee for the 96.7 percent free throw shooter — and he drained it, 66-64.


"A few plays before, I thought we had an opportunity to get a layup in transition, and he settled for a 3-pointer," Oney said. "To his credit, he accepted some criticism from the coaching staff. The next time he had that chance, he went and made the play. He's a tough kid and a fighter. He's always trying to win the game."


Next, Dyllion Redmond (Jackson; Callaway) drew a foul and knocked down one of his two attempts to pull things one point closer. After a defensive stand by the Wildcats, PRCC had a chance to take the lead on the offense side, and Redmond came up clutch once again. The sophomore forward was fed a pass outside the arc and hesitated to shoot the wide-open look. He realized the nearby defender wasn't respecting his 3-point ability, locked in on the rim and popped the longball to push PRCC ahead 68-66.


"He's gaining confidence in his 3-pointer," Oney said. "He's the only guy back with us that played in that game against them last year. It was gratifying to see him step up and make a play like that for his team."


Itawamba wasted no time evening the game, driving down the court for a layup, 68-68. Smith immediately moved the Wildcats ahead again, driving to the basket and kissing a layup off the glass with 23 seconds left in the game. 


Heading into the contest, PRCC was unsure if Green was even going to lace up his shoes, but he weathered the storm and was clutch time after time in the game. He may have already had 17 points by this point in the contest, but no play of his was bigger all night than what he did defensively late. ICC had the ball on offense with a chance to tie up the game. A player looked to have a promising drive to the basket, and out of nowhere, Green swatted the ball away to prevent a shot. 


"The last time he was in a uniform, he walked off the floor in crutches," Oney said. "I told him in front of the team how proud I was of him for doing everything he had to do to get healthy and for gutting it out the way he did."


ICC earned one last chance at the free throw line to tie the game and missed the first shot before making the second. Hunter was fouled on the inbound and nailed both ends of a one-and-one.


The Indians had 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock and needed a floor-length pass to get the shot off. Rich'ard Frazier (Hattiesburg; Forrest County) was subbed into the game to use his 6-foot-10 frame to make it a challenging play. ICC's first attempt was blocked instantly and went out of bounds. ICC had one last opportunity for the heave, and Frazier again denied the pass before corralling the loose ball and ending the game, 72-69. 


"I'm happy for him. He came in and helped us," Oney said. "We talked a lot about staying in the game mentally because you never know when it'll be your turn to make a play to help us win a game."

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Smith finished with a game-high 19 points. 

"They (Itawamba) put a lot of pressure on your point guard coming down the floor," Oney said. "We ask a lot of Taz because we need him to bring the ball down the court and to score. Every game, he's getting better and making winning plays. If we had him all year, there's no telling what our record would be or where we would be ranked."


Green ended the night with 17 points, and Hunter added 16.

 

UP NEXT

PRCC returns to Marvin R. White Coliseum on Monday for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff against Meridian.

 

TUNE IN

All home Pearl River basketball games are livestreamed for free at PRCCMedia.com/Gold. Fans who have Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV devices can also watch the Wildcat broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from their app stores.

Games will also be available over the air in Pearl River County by tuning into 1320 AM and 106.9 FM. The radio broadcast is also available at WRJWRadio.com and by downloading the WRJW app.

 

TICKETS

To help improve traffic flow and fan experience, PRCC athletics box offices will be cashless in 2023-24. 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

 

For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on X (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics). 

@WRJW  

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