DECATUR, Miss— When you are the No. 2 team in the country you expect to get the best from every team you play.
That story was no different Monday. Hours after being elevated to the No. 2 team in the country, the Pearl River Wildcats outlasted East Central on the road 72-70 to earn the team's 17th straight win of the season.
"I thought we had to play against East Central and ourselves tonight," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. "We were not focused. We won the game but you hate to use these kinds of wins at this time of the season. You want to save these types of wins for the postseason. I'm excited we won and luckily we're the last undefeated team in the nation."
The Wildcats (17-0 overall, 9-0 MACJC South) went back and forth with the Warriors (7-11, 2-9) but went into halftime trailing 41-36.
"I told them at halftime let's not get back on the bus and say we lost because we got outworked and out hustled," Oney said.
Oney's call for his team to respond to the adversity clearly worked as the Wildcats stormed back to start the second half on a 10-0 run and take the lead.
The Warriors did not go away however trading multiple leads with the reigning Region XXIII champions throughout the second half.
A crucial moment in the game came with a little over a minute left to play when freshmen Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) nailed a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 70-64 lead.
While East Central would respond with a shot from downtown of their own Smith stepped up once again on the ensuing possession when he was fouled and converted both free throws to give the Wildcats a five point lead.
"Earl played like a kid who has been here before," Oney said.
Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) led the way for the Wildcats with 18 points on the night.
A returning Rod Brown (Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova) also came up huge on the offensive end scoring 16 points.
Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) provided some quality minutes off the bench for PRCC scoring 11 points.
MOVIN' ON UP
The Wildcats hit another milestone Monday when they were announced as the No. 2 team in the NJCAA, surpassing the previous program best of third.
The Wildcats received two first-place votes and 381 total points.
The new ranking comes on the heels of Pearl River outlasting the field to be the final undefeated team in the country for a second straight season.
The Wildcats will take on Jones College Thursday night at Marvin R. White Coliseum in Poplarville.
The doubleheader is set to tip off 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.