POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 3 Pearl River solidified its spot as one of the nation's best Thursday. A shorthanded Wildcats squad had to overcame some early adversity for its 80-57 victory inside Marvin R. White Coliseum. Not only was Thursday's win the Wildcats' 16th straight to open the season, it was also their 15th straight against the Wolves.
"This time of year you want to make sure you're still competing at a high level and doing the things we're trying to do to win games. There's only one part of the scoreboard that matters and that's where it shows you with the lead," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. "We have some guys who are banged up and they were looking at me like they wanted to get in, but I wanted to rest them as much as I could.
"… I had so much confidence in our team, I thought we would be able to prevail without the other guys."
The victory was the seventh time in eight games PRCC has held a conference opponent under 60 points.
The Wolves (6-11 overall, 1-7 MACJC South) mucked up the game early, attempting to slow down the high-flying Wildcats. The tactic got PRCC (16-0, 8-0) off its game, but only momentarily.
Co-Lin actually held a four-point advantage in the opening minutes. After a 6-0 run saw Pearl River take a 14-11 advantage, the visitors jumped back ahead 15-14. Six straight free throws by the Wilkens brothers — two from Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi) and four from Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi) — in a minute's time gave PRCC a 20-15 advantage it didn't relinquish.
"Over there we kind of sped them up and they didn't want to play that way against us so I think their gameplan was to come in, try to slow us down and walk the ball up the court," Oney said. "I wanted to speed them up to get us going because I think that's when we're at our best."
Pearl River extended its lead to 27-18 but the Wolves responded with a 7-0 run to pull within two.
That was as close as the visitors got to the reigning Region XXIII Champs the rest of the evening.
The Wildcats seemed to find their groove in the final five minutes of the half and closed out the frame on a 16-5 run for a 42-30 lead.
At one point during the streak, Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) scored eight straight points for the Wildcats — with two coming on a nifty pickpocket of a Wolves guard that he took end to end for a score. The St. John's commit ended up with a career night, scoring a season-high 28 points.
Motivated during the halftime break, the Wildcats scored 10 of the first 14 points in the second half and the rout was on.
LEADING THE WAY
Moore's 28 were easily a team-high for the Wildcats and marked the sixth time he's scored at least 20 points. He also led PRCC with eight rebounds.
"Zay comes with the effort every night. He comes with the focus and determination," Oney said. "I'm super proud of him. He hasn't started more than once or twice before tonight but he has never complained or gotten down about what we're trying to do. He always comes in trying to win the game and that speaks a lot about him.
"I'm super proud to have him on my team."
Jamarcus Jones (Sardis; North Panola) made the most of his 25 minutes on the court, scoring 14 points. Hardy added 12 more points to round out PRCC's double-digit scorers.
"He played a great game tonight," Moore said of Jones. "Coach told him to stay ready because you never know when it's going to be your time to shine. He played a great game tonight."
After back-to-back home games, Pearl River will hit the road Monday to face East Central. PRCC returns to Marvin R. White Coliseum Thursday to play Jones College. Both doubleheaders begin at 5:30 p.m.
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. Conference games can also be heard on WRJW 1320 AM, WRJWRadio.com or by downloading the WRJW app.