SCOOBA, Miss. — By his own admission, sophomore Rodgerick Brown (Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova) didn't play his best game in No. 2 Pearl River's MACJC Tournament opener Monday. His teammates picked up the Tulsa commit and led the Wildcats past Itawamba.
In the MACJC Semifinals on Wednesday it was Brown's turn to lift up his teammates — and the 6-foot-7 transfer did not disappoint. The Wildcats needed nearly every one of Brown's 28 points as Pearl River held on in overtime to defeat Jones College 90-86 inside East Mississippi's Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.
Pearl River (24-0 overall) now advances to play the winner of No. 17 Northeast and Hinds at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in their second MACJC Championship game in three seasons.
"That's special," Pearl River coach Chris Oney said of Thursday's opportunity. "These guys are something else. I'm proud of them."
Oney said he texted Brown at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday with a simple message: "Just relax and play," Oney recounted after the JC win. "I said the most disappointing thing to me was it looked like you weren't having fun. I don't care about going 1-for-7 or making mistakes, but let's have fun and enjoy it and try to get through the bad moments."
Brown texted back "I got you coach."
Brown let his play do his talking Wednesday. He was a catalyst early for the Wildcats, leading PRCC with nine points at halftime. The former Wichita State Shocker later scored six of Pearl River's 12 points in overtime to help keep PRCC ahead of the Bobcats.
"I didn't play as good in Monday's game but I told coach I'm going to do better and bring the energy. I just thought if I brought the energy the team would go along with me," Brown said. "It's a game of runs. They made their run. We knew all we had to do was settle down and play the game of basketball like we've been doing all year long and that's what we did. It was a complete team effort.
"Every possession mattered and we needed everyone."
Jones College (18-6) opened the game on a 6-0 run but the Wildcats quickly answered back. Isaih Moore (Columbia, S.C.; Sumter) hit a 3 to get PRCC on the scoreboard. Jariyon Wilkins (Biloxi) then nailed another 3 pointer next time down the court. Tae Hardy (Ellenwood, Ga.; Believe Prep) gave Pearl River its first lead, 8-6, at the 15:56 mark with a reverse layup.
Jones pulled ahead 11-10 on a 3-pointer of its own but the Wildcats scored six unanswered to go ahead 16-11. During the run, Brown hit a fadeaway shot, Hardy hit a long two-pointer behind a screen from Brown and then the Memphis native scored on a crossing pattern with Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier).
Late in the half Jones led 33-31 before the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to close the frame.
Wilkens started the run with a 3-pointer. Following a Hardy layup on a fast break — that stemmed from a missed dunk by Jones — Jamarcus Jones (Sardis; North Panola) tacked on a free throw. JC made its lone basket during the run at that point, but Smith closed the frame with a 3-pointer from way behind the arc half a second before the buzzer sounded to give the Wildcats a 40-35 lead going into halftime.
While the Wildcats never trailed in the second half, it was a battle to get much breathing room. Pearl River built its largest lead with 6:20 remaining when Brown threw down a thunderous dunk on a touch pass from Moore on a fast break and then hit both free throws for a 70-59 lead.
Three-pointers helped the Wildcats climb back into the game and by the time the regulation buzzer sounded the Wildcats and Bobcats were deadlocked 78-78.
With the pressure amped up — at least for all of the spectators inside EMCC's gymnasium — the Wildcats remained calm.
Brown opened the extra five-minute frame with a jumper in the lane. Following a JC free throw, Moore threw down a dunk for an 82-79 advantage.
Jones hit a jumper and made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game back up, but Brown drove through a crowd for his 11th basket of the game.
The Bobcats hit another basket with 97 seconds remaining but Hardy came out of the timeout and sunk a jumper with a defender draped all over him in the lane.
Jones tied it back up 86-86 with under a minute to play.
"That's one of those shots as a coach when he pulls up you're screaming, 'that's a terrible shot' and when it goes in you're thinking 'great shot,'" Oney said.
Hardy missed on PRCC's next possession, but Moore was fouled going up for the rebound in a crowd. The St. John's signee hit both of his free throws and following a JC miss, Moore pulled in another rebound, his 12th.
The Wildcats capped the win in the final seconds when Cameron Smith (Okolona) zipped a pass toward the basket. Brown out-jumped a number of defenders and slammed the ball home to complete the alley-oop and seal the victory.
Brown's team-high 28 points were also a career-high. He also pulled in seven rebounds.
Moore earned his 10th double-double of the season, scoring 16 points with 12 rebounds. He also recorded three blocks.
Hardy had another strong offensive showing, scoring 19 points with eight assists. He also had seven rebounds.
Jariyon and Jaronn Wilkens rounded out PRCC's leading scorers with eight and seven points respectively.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All MACJC Tournament and Region XXIII games will be 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. The games can also be heard on WRJW 1320 AM, WRJWRadio.com or by downloading the WRJW app.