POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Multiple times during the preseason Pearl River women's basketball coach Scotty Fletcher touted the growth of Alanna Smith (Picayune).
He explained how she had grown in her year in the program and would be looked to in 2019-20 to lead the Wildcats.
The sophomore made Fletcher look smart Monday as the point guard helped lead PRCC past East Mississippi 61-57 in the opening game of the Wildcat Classic at Marvin R. White Coliseum.
The Wildcats (3-1 overall) handed EMCC (4-1) its first loss of the season.
"Let me start off by saying I'm exhausted. I have got to get in better shape. I feel like I played tonight. This game had a playoff atmosphere," Fletcher said. "I said in the pregame East Mississippi is good. You saw tonight how tough this league is. I have to do a better job of getting these girls to understand that.
"That was a tough matchup."
The game lived up to the billing as neither team was allowed to create much breathing room from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) got the game started with back-to-back 3-pointers for an early 6-0 lead. The two teams largely traded baskets for the remainder of the frame with PRCC edging ahead 17-14 at the first break.
The second quarter was much the same. PRCC built a 24-18 advantage on an Olivia Mosley (Pearl) layup and Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) 3-pointer but EMCC went on a run of its own, pulling ahead 25-24 for its first lead of the game with 3:30 remaining in the half.
Deadlocked 31-31 in the waning seconds of the half, Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) scored on a put-back that was batted to her by Smith. The acrobatic play gave PRCC a 33-31 lead.
The third quarter played out much like the previous two with PRCC holding the largest lead — 48-41— following a 10-3 run.
While the Wildcats in large struggled to score in the fourth quarter, Smith was the exception. PRCC led 50-46 going into the final frame, but EMCC made seven unanswered points to pull ahead 53-50.
Then Smith stepped up, knocking down a jumper off of a crossover at 5:32 to pull PRCC within one at 53-52. The next possession Smith hit another jumper, just beating the shot clock for a 54-53 advantage the Wildcats would not relinquish.
Coupled with improved defensive play from the Wildcats down the stretch, Smith scored four of PRCC's final seven points to ice the victory.
The speedy sophomore finished the performance with a team-high 17 points. She also led the team with three assists.
"Alanna was the player of the game. Hands down. She was great," Fletcher said. "She had an unbelievable stat sheet for a point guard."
Linzy finished second on the Wildcats with 14 points. One of her biggest contributions was a charge she took with 29.4 seconds remaining and the Wildcats clinging to a 58-57 lead.
"I know she's small but I tell every Division 1 coach this, and I mean it, if I was starting a Division 1 program tomorrow she's the one I'd carry with me," Fletcher said of Linzy. "When you're that size you have to affect the game in one of two ways, offensively or defensively. Offensively she affects the court because she shoots so well. But defensively she takes charges.
"Those are the plays that don't show up on the stat sheet."
Wright led PRCC with six rebounds. Brieanna Miller (Moss Point) was second on the team with five rebounds.
BACK AT IT
The PRCC women won't be back in action until Dec. 6 when they host Gadsden State at 5:30 p.m.
"This is a great way to go into the break being 3-1 and 2-1 in region play," Fletcher said. "We have a little time to let our bodies heal and work on some stuff."
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.