POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's women never run from a challenge but they ultimately dashed away from East Central on Thursday night. Thanks to a 14-point run in the second half, PRCC defeated ECCC 54-45 inside Marvin R. White Coliseum.
Prior to PRCC's first MACJC contest of 2020, coach Scotty Fletcher asked his Wildcats to think about the big picture.
"Somebody saw us play for the first time tonight. What type of impression did we leave on them? Were we scrappy? Were we detail oriented? Every time you put on that jersey it's an 'I get to' mentality not an "I have to' mentality. I don't have to do this, I get to do this," Fletcher said he told his players. "I thought we played like that tonight. This was a must win for us and I mean that.
"In those first seven conference games you have got to protect home court and you have to find a way to go on the road and split."
For the second straight contest PRCC (7-3 overall, 1-1 MACJC South) got off to a slow start. Although PRCC led for the majority of the first half, it wasn't until back-to-back 3s from Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) and Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) gave the Wildcats a 25-21 lead going into the midway break.
The late momentum carried over to the second half and thanks to some timely 3s in addition to improved defensive pressure the Wildcats never trailed ECCC (5-6, 0-2) the rest of the way.
Perhaps the sequence of the second half — in the midst of PRCC's 14-0 run — was a end-to-end dash from freshman Allanah "Hollywood" Turner (Gulfport; West Harrison). The guard grabbed a rebound on the defensive end, split through the ECCC defense and laid the ball up and in for a 35-24 advantage.
Three-pointers from Bullard sandwiched around a Shania Wright (Clinton) make capped the lengthy run with the Wildcats ahead 43-24.
"We have to turn up the pressure. We have to," Turner said of the run. "In practice, Coach Fletcher pushes and pounds confidence into our heads and we just came out here ready to play."
Alanna Smith (Picayune) had what might be considered a quiet 14 points to lead PRCC on 6 of 11 shooting.
Smith added five rebounds, two steals and an assist to her stat line.
"Here I am telling her I need her to play better and she leads us in scoring. I need to go down there and apologize," Fletcher joked. "What I love about Alanna is her growth and maturity. Most importantly she's coachable and wants to be coachable.
"That just means a lot."
Turner was one point shy of her career high, scoring 10 against ECCC.
"Allanah is getting better. We spend a lot of time on individual player development and I thought her mechanics are really good," Fletcher said. "The reason she was missing some shots early on was her balance was not straight up and straight down. She has to be a straight up and straight down type of shooter. I always tell her when she shoots it, go get it. I want her to pursue the ball and things like that.
"She's fun to coach and is so coachable. I can't say enough about her."
Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) rounded out PRCC's double-digit scorers with 10 points. Bullard wasn't far off the pace with 9.
"If you would have said, 'Fletch, your best player who's averaging almost 14 a game in Pooh, has 3 points and you'll win by nine,' I would have said 'I don't know about that,'" Fletcher said. "My point is, it's so great to see three other girls in double figures.
"That's the sign of a good basketball team."
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround, visiting No. 11 Jones College on Monday at 5:30 p.m. PRCC returns home Thursday for a 5:30 p.m. start against Hinds.
All PRCC home competitions are streamed live at PRCCMedia.com/gold.
Games will also be broadcast on WRJW 1320 AM, WRJWRadio.com and on the WRJW smart phone app.
Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store.
For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).