POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Back and forth was the name of the game Monday as No. 10 Pearl River topped East Central 79-74 at Marvin R. White Coliseum.
"When teams play against us, we're not going to play against the same team we see on film playing against other people. We're going to face a team that's trying to beat us. I think that's what makes it fun," head coach Chris Oney said. "We had gotten a little spoiled where we could come out, roll the ball out there and it would happen for us. This is not the year for that. We're going to have to grind it out. I'm proud of our guys for the way they played tonight."
Pearl River (6-1 overall; 6-1 MACCC South) got the scoring started Monday with a 3-pointer from Cameron Brown (Hattiesburg) after a dish to the corner from Jariyon Wilkens (Biloxi). East Central (0-8; 0-8) quickly countered with a 3-pointer of its own, and then took the lead on a layup shortly after, 5-3.
The two teams traded blows throughout the duration of the first half tying nine times before Joe Cooper (Olive Branch) picked off a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup to put the Wildcats ahead, 29-27.
A 3-point shot and a pair of free throws from Earl Smith (Jackson; Lanier) helped the Wildcats close out the first half with a 49-38 lead.
The Warriors opened the second half with a jumper to lower the Wildcat lead to nine points, but the Wildcats continued to put points on the board to maintain the lead. They stretched the lead to 12 points at 58-46, when Jariyon Wilkens hit a fade away jumper after dropping an East Central defender on a crossover.
East Central fought back late in the second half to close the gap between the two teams to just two points, 74-72. Clutch free throws from Smith and Jaronn Wilkens (Biloxi) helped Pearl River close out the game, 79-74.
"We're still learning how to play, especially in different roles. Just two or three weeks ago some of their roles were completely different than what I need them to play now," Oney said. "I saw a lot of things I like."
BY THE NUMBERS
Jariyon Wilkens finished the night with a double-double, earning 20 points and 11 rebounds; Monday marked his second straight 20-point game. Smith finished with 17 points and Brown finished with 14. Ja'quan Ewing (Clarksville, Tenn.; Kenwood) finished with 12 points, six rebounds and a block.
Pearl River will return to the court Thursday at Jones College. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be general admission at home basketball games. Following guidelines set by the state of Mississippi, PRCC is limiting attendance to only players, coaches, spirit squads, the PRCC pep band, gameday personnel and family members. No Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference or Mississippi High School Activities Association passes will be accepted.
HOW TO TUNE IN
Most games will be broadcast at PRCCMedia.com/Gold but in some instances where multiple teams are at home, PRCC will also have a feed on its auxiliary channel at PRCCMedia.com/Maroon. Fans who have Roku or Amazon Fire devices can also watch the Wildcats on their televisions by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from their app store.
Home games will also be broadcast on WRJWRadio.com.