No. 4 Pearl River may have defeated visiting East Central by 36 points Thursday, but it was a lull in the middle of the game and a string of miscues that will linger with the Wildcats following the 100-64 victory inside Marvin R. White Coliseum.
The win marks PRCC’s fifth straight over ECCC (5-6 overall, 0-2 MACJC South).
“What I think the guys are going to see, games like this, mistakes like this, allow us to keep coaching and growing and keep working on things,” Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. “I thought that’s pretty much what we needed — especially because things are going to get a lot tougher.”
Early on it looked like the Wildcats (10-0, 2-0) might blow out East Central. Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe) and Rodgerick Brown (Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova) pickpocketed Warriors and converted the steals into points for a 4-0 advantage.
Then the dunks started. Brown threw down off a steal and then two Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) dunks sandwiched a Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) 3-pointer for 16-5 lead and early ECCC timeout just under four minutes into the contest.
PRCC came out of the break just as motivated as Cameron Smith (Okolona) lobbed alley-oop passes to Moore on consecutive scores for a 20-7 advantage.
The game turned around — momentarily — at the 13-minute mark as East Central clawed into PRCC’s lead, pulling within eight at 28-20.
Although the Wildcats weathered the lull to take a 49-35 lead into halftime, it wasn’t until the second frame that PRCC really turned on the jets.
The two teams traded points early in the frame, but at 14:26 PRCC embarked on what wound up being a 16-point run. Five different players contributed to the run, with Brown scoring four points, Allen hitting a 3 and then three more free throws, plus Hardy, Moore and Smith finding the basket.
The 71-45 lead that resulted from the run proved to be too much for the visitors.
“This team more than anything we wear you down,” Oney said. “Although it doesn’t look pretty all the time, we know as a staff if we just keep at it, just keep at it, just keep at it, we’re going to catch you with a lineup out there that we can take advantage of.
“That’s how we went on that 16-0 run.”
Six players scored double figures for PRCC, which hit 100 points for the fifth time in 2019-20. Moore led the Wildcats with 20 points and also pulled in eight rebounds. Hardy scored 14 and tied Allen with a team high three assists; he also led the Wildcats with seven steals. Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi) and Brown each scored 12, while Allen and Smith added 11 apiece.
“Cam and Kelvin Allen, those were guys who were on the floor last year,” Oney said. “Cam had to cover (Brandon Rachal) in practice everyday. It’s just his time to step up and we need him to step up. Luckily tonight he was able to step up.”
Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) saw his most meaningful playing time Thursday, scoring seven points with two steals in 19 minutes.
Oney believes the breakout performance is just the beginning for the former Dandy Dozen.
“Earl is a special talent,” he said. “We get a chance to watch him grow every night. I was extremely ecstatic once we signed him because he has a lot of talent.
“Especially next year, people are going to see just how good he is.”
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround, visiting Jones College on Monday at 7:30 p.m. PRCC returns home Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. start against Hinds.
“After a game like this we’ll get in and watch film because there’s a lot we need to clean up before Monday,” Oney said.