POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Determined not to let history repeat itself for a third straight night Monday, Pearl River blitzed visiting Meridian early and did what it had to do late to secure a 68-63 victory.
The win inside Marvin R. White Coliseum snapped a series of one-point losses.
"It feels good to come back after those two losses because we know we needed this one," said sophomore standout Shania Wright (Clinton).
Pearl River (10-6 overall, 3-4 MACJC South) scored the game's first 10 points — on three 3-pointers and a free throw — with Alanna Smith (Picayune) assisting on all three long-range daggers.
After Meridian (6-10, 3-4) knocked down a couple shots, Pearl River closed out the quarter on a 9-2 run — punctuated by a Smith 3 — to take a 25-11 lead into the first break.
The Eagles came alive a bit in the second, pulling within five at 31-26, but the Wildcats used a 7-2 run late to take a 42-33 advantage into halftime.
MCC made things interesting in the third quarter, tying the game with 4:20 remaining in the frame. Wright hit a free throw and Smith dashed to the basket for a quick layup soon after for a 51-48 lead.
The Wildcats scored the final four points of the quarter on free throws from Wright and Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) to hold a 56-53 lead going into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth frame that saw neither team relinquish much ground.
The Eagles pulled within one, 56-56, early in the fourth but a Linzy free throw coupled with a pullup jumper from Smith put PRCC back ahead 59-55.
MCC went on a mini-run of its own, tying the game at 59-59 before Wright broke the deadlock. PRCC passed the ball inside and Meridian practically dared Wright to shoot. The sophomore spun, dribbled back a step and then rattled a ball off the rim and in for the 61-59 lead.
Following a pair of Smith free throws, MCC quickly responded with under a minute remaining to trail 63-61.
With the Wildcats needing a couple more big moments to secure their third MACJC South win, Linzy and Olivia Mosley (Pearl) answered the call.
The shot clock was rapidly running out on PRCC's next possession when Smith drove to her left and kicked the ball to Linzy. The sophomore's third 3 of the evening was the biggest as Linzy got nothing but net — and a 66-61 advantage.
"The basketball gods kind of rewarded her," Pearl River coach Scotty Fletcher said of Linzy's remarkable shot. "She stays in the gym, getting shots up, and is always in here working out."
Fletcher paused before revisiting the play.
"People don't realize — they just see Pooh make the shot but the delivery of the pass was what allowed the shot to go in," he said. "That was the play of the game."
Once again MCC responded with a jumper but Mosley iced the game with just under 16 seconds remaining by hitting two free throws.
"The last few days we have worked on pressure free throws and we went 23-for-30 tonight," Fletcher said. "Olivia Mosley hadn't been as effective in those pressure moments but tonight she was clutch.
"That was absolutely critical."
One game after eclipsing 20 points for the first time in her career, Smith did it again. The Picayune native followed up her 29-point performance at Southwest last week by scoring a team-high 22 Monday.
"Just being the floor general and in charge of the game is something we need her to do," Wright said of Smith. "For her to score big points like that really puts us up at the top."
Wright, the newly crowned Forrest General Wildcat of the Week, continued on her tear as well, earning her first career double-double with 13 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
"Our roster is a little thin inside and Shania is playing out of her mind right now," Fletcher said. "It's absolutely amazing what she's doing."
Linzy rounded out PRCC's leading scorers with 14 points while Mosley and Brieanna Miller (Moss Point) each had 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats return to Marvin R. White Coliseum on Thursday to host Copiah-Lincoln. The doubleheader 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.