PERKINSTON, Miss. — Rival Gulf Coast kept Thursday night's showdown against No. 2 Pearl River close — for about nine minutes. Once the MACJC South champs caught fire offensively, the Wildcats' defense did what it has done all year and the nation's lone undefeated team won its 20th straight game, 74-45.
With the victory, PRCC swept the season series.
"Once again we won I think a different way but it's the same old story," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said. "Our defense was really good. We held them to 18 points the first half and that was the game plan."
Oney was correct. PRCC's defense was so good Thursday that it held Gulf Coast to 11 points below its previous season low.
The Wildcats (20-0 overall; 12-0 MACJC South) fell behind 13-6 nearly nine minutes into the game. And almost like a switch was flipped, the Wildcats were ahead and never trailed again. The surge was aided by an 11-0 run — with five of the points coming from Tulsa commit Rodgerick Brown (Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova.). The run was punctuated two minutes later when Cameron Smith (Okolona) saved a bad pass, spun in the lane and popped a jumper. The ball swirled around the rim before dropping in for a 17-13 advantage.
The two sides traded baskets for the next three minutes until PRCC took a stranglehold on the game in the final stretches of the half. The Wildcats scored the final eight points of the frame courtesy of an Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) off balance bucket, a Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) jumper and two more baskets from Moore for a 31-18 lead over MGCCC (14-6, 6-6).
"That was important because I told the guys it was going to take us a little while to get adjusted to this floor because it's so small," Oney said. "Every time it's people on top of you sinking so there isn't much room to drive to the bottom. We have to go top to middle and kick it to the bottom; once we did that we were able to find some holes on their defense.
"Isaih was able to clean up some of those misses and it got us rolling."
The second half started much different for the Wildcats as Oney's undefeated squad quickly jumped out 40-19 and the rout was on.
Recent Southern Miss commit Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe Prep) started the run with a jumper. Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi) hit a 3 and then slammed home an ally-oop from Smith. Hardy sunk two free throws for the 39th and 40th points after MGCCC was called for having six men on the court.
Moore led Pearl River with 25 points and tied for the team lead with 11 rebounds. The double-double was his team-high seventh of the season.
"I think he's the best big man in this league," Oney said. "There's nobody else that can do the things he does and I'm excited we have him on my team."
Jones tied Moore with 11 rebounds. Smith had four assists with Cameron Smith adding three of his own. Moore finished with three blocks.
"They play loose, which is because of a couple different reasons," Oney said. "One, because they have extreme confidence in their ability as individual players. Two, they have extreme confidence in the guy next to them in their teammates. Three, they just enjoy playing. When you mix all that together with a bunch of unselfish guys it becomes contagious and it becomes fun.
"I've never wanted to have a team where I'm calling all the plays for one guy or two guys, I enjoy coaching the teams that everybody enjoys playing on because they know any given night they have a chance to go in and help us a win. It's been a heck of a year watching these guys play."
The Wildcats will return to Marvin R. White Coliseum on Monday to host Southwest for Sophomore Night. PRCC then closes out the regular season Thursday at Meridian. Both doubleheaders will start at 5:30 p.m. The men's team will also hold a banner ceremony to celebrate the 2018-19 Region XXIII champs.
The postseason begins Monday, Feb. 24 with the MACJC Tournament, which is hosted by the winner of the MACJC's women's North Division.
The Region XXIII Tournament is set to start March 3 in Clinton at Mississippi College, while the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas will start March 16.
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.