SUMMIT, Miss. — Pearl River's Alanna Smith (Picayune) turned in one of the Wildcats' top performances of the season but it wasn't enough Thursday as PRCC fell at Southwest 63-61. The defeat was the second straight one-possession loss for the Wildcats (9-6 overall, 2-4 MACJC South).
"It's frustrating. It's two games in a row where I thought our girls had a lot of buildup and excitement. We didn't drop our heads after the Gulf Coast game," Pearl River coach Scotty Fletcher said. "We battled our tails off. There are no moral victories in our program but I'm not nearly as devastated as I was the other night because we got in this situation and I heard girls in the timeout saying 'this is the moment we've been waiting for.'
"Those girls were ready for this."
"The moment" Fletcher was referring to came in the waning moments of Thursday's MACJC South showdown. After Southwest took the lead with six seconds left, PRCC had a chance to go back ahead and stun the crowd. Following a SMCC foul, PRCC worked the ball to sophomore Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine). The sharpshooter had an open look but couldn't get the ball to land as the buzzer sounded.
"She had a clean look," Fletcher said, "we just have to make it."
Much of the night it seemed Smith couldn't miss. The Picayune native gave the Wildcats a shot in the arm early, mixing jumpers with athletic layups through traffic. Smith entered halftime with 12 points but wasn't close to cooling. The point guard scored PRCC's first four points out of the break and finished the night with a career-high 29 points.
"She was spectacular tonight," Fletcher said. "We thought we could really use her in those ball screen situations. She was really good for us.
"She has improved so much and bought into our individual player development each and every day. I'm very excited for the growth she has made."
PRCC and SMCC (11-4, 4-2) traded the lead back and forth for really the entire game. The Bears held a 20-16 advantage after the first quarter but Pearl River surged in the second. Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) knocked down 3-pointers on three straight possessions early in the second to send PRCC past Southwest 28-27 early in the second. The Bears retook the lead only to see the Wildcats jump back ahead 34-33.
The second half played out much like the third. PRCC held a 41-35 lead following a Smith 3 and two free throws from Tae Burraage (Carthage; Leake County). Despite another late run from PRCC, the hosts took a 52-49 lead into the fourth.
Three-pointers from Smith and Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) sent PRCC back ahead 61-60 with 1:55 left to play, but the Bears made a late free throw to tie the game and then went ahead for good with six seconds left.
"The biggest thing I'm taking from this is we have to get a little more crisp in our attention to detail. We have eight more games guaranteed. If we clean up our discipline and attention to detail I think we'll be fine," Fletcher said. "We're going to get right back to work tomorrow. We're not going to drop our heads. I can promise you that. We still have a lot of basketball in front of us and control our destiny. We just have to be better, and we will.
"I'll tell you one thing about our girls. They won't quit. They just keep fighting."
Linzy and her high school teammate Shania Wright (Clinton) had two more strong performances for the Wildcats. Linzy finished the game with 11 points while Wright continued to be a force in the paint. In addition to seven points, the sophomore pulled in seven rebounds with six blocks.
COACHES VS. CANCER
Thursday's doubleheader featured a special cause as it was Coaches vs. Cancer Night.
The games are held each year as a fundraising tool of the American Cancer Society. During the games, coaches wear sneakers and fans are asked to do the same.
Anyone who was unable to attend the game but still wants to make a donation can do so at https://pledgeit.org/cvc20-southwest.
The Wildcats have a busy week ahead with two doubleheaders at Marvin R. White Coliseum. PRCC hosts Meridian on Monday and Copiah-Lincoln on Thursday. Both doubleheaders will begin at 5:30 p.m.
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.