UTICA, Miss. – No. 14 Pearl River continues to find new ways to win basketball games. Three days after having to battle out a low-scoring rivalry contest, the Wildcats traded shots with Hinds before ultimately pulling away late for a 91-80 victory. With the win, the Wildcats remain all alone as the nation's only undefeated team.
"They're a good ball club. They have guys who can make shots and make plays. I'm just glad we won, to be honest," PRCC coach Chris Oney said.
Unlike most of their games this season, PRCC (13-0 overall, 4-0 MACJC) never had a chance to take it easy Thursday.
The two squads traded baskets up and down the court for much of the first half. A Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah) slash down the lane tied the game 19-19, and while PRCC clawed out a 48-39 halftime advantage Hinds never relented. It took another 14 minutes or so for the Wildcats to finally reel off a sizable run and exhale.
"One of the challenges when you have a team this talented is when they go in they want to show everyone in the gym just how talented they are," Oney said. "I thought we made a few highlight plays when it wasn't the right time for them and kept (Hinds) in it.
"I tell them all the time that one bad possession could lead to us losing a game or for sure getting into a dog fight."
Luckily for PRCC, Thursday it was the latter.
Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon) knocked down a 3-pointer early in the second half to push PRCC ahead 57-53 and after trading baskets, the Bulldogs built a 7-0 run to pull within four at 72-68.
OFF AND RUNNING
Hinds' run awoke PRCC, which finally responded with a sizable run of its own. LSU transfer Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches Central) scored his first basket of the night with 6:40 remaining when he stole the ball and took it coast to coast for an easy layup and a 74-68 advantage. Following a Hinds basket, PRCC scored eight straight and 11 of the next 13 points — punctuated by another Brim 3-pointer — to put the game on ice with 2:35 remaining.
"We have a lot of guys who just hate to lose," Oney said. "When you have so many guys who just hate to lose, it makes it easier when some guys are struggling."
LEADING THE WAY
Normally Rachal is among the team's scoring leaders. On Thursday, Rachal made his presence felt in a different way by recording 12 rebounds.
"Rachal didn't have his normal game but he still came up with some big rebounds and affected the game," Oney said.
Eric Thornton Jr. (Canton; Murrah) finished with a game-high 23 points, one point off his season-high. The performance was also Thornton's fifth straight time to reach double figures, a feat he's accomplished 10 times this season. Brim and James added 21 and 19 points respectively. LaGarious White (Ridgeland; Brandon) rounded out PRCC's scoring leaders with an 11-point showing.