POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Monday night's game at Jones College was ultimately a win, but No. 5 Pearl River left Ellisville feeling like they had plenty more to prove. The Wildcats seemed out of rhythm at times and missed shots they usually make. Luckily for the reigning Region XXIII champs their defense traveled.
There really was no such drama Thursday despite ample anticipation for the Wildcats' home showdown against Hinds. The two teams traded points for the first couple of minutes but PRCC reeled off a 15-0 run and never looked back, defeating Hinds 96-58 inside a rowdy Marvin R. White Coliseum.
"I saw something on film I thought we could take advantage of and the guys executed it," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. "We heard a lot of things after we beat Jones (59-55) of course, how we didn't play well, what's wrong with you?"
Oney responded by kicking his players out of the gym.
"I pulled one of my mid-season tricks and told them we weren't practicing anymore; there's no sense in practicing since they're going to be selfish anyway," he said. "I came back that night and saw about nine of them working out so I knew we'd be OK."
The move was reflected in Thursday's 38-point win, the third in a row for PRCC (12-0 overall, 4-0 MACJC South) against Hinds (8-3, 3-1).
"We just came out with the focus of winning," said Jamarcus Jones (Sardis; North Panola). "We knew the last game we had a lot of turnovers and missed a lot of free throws, so we knew we needed to execute on the things we messed up on."
Two of PRCC's first baskets were 3-pointers from former MHSAA State Champion Cameron Smith (Okolona); his second from downtown put PRCC ahead 10-9 and the Wildcats never trailed again.
The 3-pointer started a 15-0 run that saw six different Wildcats score. The highlight of the streak was the punctuation — which put PRCC up 21-9 — when St. John's signee Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) caught an ally-oop pass from Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe Prep) on the fast break and threw it down.
The Bulldogs scored the next basket, but PRCC proceeded to score 10 of the next 12 points — with six from Hardy — and the rout was on.
"I think confidence comes from preparation," PRCC assistant coach Hayden Sowers said. "We've been studying for three days and implemented the game plan. All the credit goes to those guys in the white jerseys for executing the game plan and really holding them to under 45 (meaningful) points when we go back and look at the film."
Pearl River entered Thursday's action with the nation's top scoring defense, holding opponents to just 56.9 points per game.
Thursday was the ninth time this season the Wildcats have held an opponent to 60 points or less.
"They are always in the gym. Every time you walk in, there's somebody in the gym," Sowers said. "It's awesome to see those guys take so much pride in the defensive end of the floor."
For the 10th time this season Hardy scored in double figures, netting 20 points to lead PRCC. Hardy was also instrumental in the Wildcats' transition game as time and time again PRCC beat the Bulldogs down the court for easy baskets.
"In my mind Tae Hardy is the best point guard in the country." Sowers said. "He had a bad game Monday night and he's texting me on the bus all the way home talking about ways to improve; I get up Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. and he's in the gym.
"That's how I knew he was going to be all right and I'm proud of Tae."
Five other Wildcats scored in double figures Thursday. Moore earned his sixth double-double on the season, scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds. Smith scored 11, while Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch), Jones and Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) all scored 10.
PRCC returns to the gym Tuesday for a rivalry matchup against Gulf Coast. The doubleheader begins at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free for all high school juniors and seniors.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events are broadcast on PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store.