POPLARVILLE, Miss. — A year ago Pearl River women's coach Scotty Fletcher disappeared out of sight as he was engulfed in the student section following PRCC's thrilling home win over Copiah-Lincoln.
Fletcher was once again overcome with excitement Thursday night as his Wildcats took it to the Wolves with a 65-51 win inside a rowdy Marvin R. White Coliseum.
The victory avenged an earlier 88-78 loss to Co-Lin.
Fletcher fought back his emotions as he relived the win during his post-game interview.
"When I was hired by Dr. (William) Lewis, Dr. (Adam) Breerwood and the committee, they asked me if I would build a great program — not a great team but a great program. In five years, I don't deserve any of this credit. I thank the Good Lord above, but you also have to thank those assistant coaches and these girls for buying in every day and doing everything I ask of them," Fletcher said. "I don't coach them soft for these moments. I thought last week everybody counted us out. Everybody thought we were out. I looked at those girls on Friday and I told them they were champions. I said, I'm going to tell you what, some people have a tough week, some people have tough lives, we just had one tough week and those girls said they were going to bounce back."
Having been eliminated from the Region XXIII Tournament a year ago by Co-Lin, coupled with a difficult stretch in the schedule and an early loss to the Wolves, proved to be more than enough motivation for the Wildcats.
"Tonight we knew Co-Lin's back was against the wall in the same way ours was. Co-Lin has a talented ballclub and we have a lot of respect for them. However, that's the same team that ended our season last year. We haven't forgotten that — 69-66," Fletcher said, still trying to gain his composure. "These girls have bought in. I think we needed last week in a sense to get closer as a ballclub."
The Wildcats (11-6 overall, 4-4 MACJC South) lived on long-range daggers early on Thursday. PRCC's first three makes from the flow of the action were all 3-pointers. Tae Burrage (Carthage; Leake County) opened the scoring for Pearl River. After two free throw makes from Shania Wright (Clinton), Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) hit another 3 to put PRCC ahead 8-3 and force a Co-Lin timeout two minutes into the match.
The Wolves (9-8, 3-5) scored out of the stoppage, but the Wildcats responded when Alanna Smith (Picayune) sizzled her third assist of the night through the teeth of Co-Lin's defense to Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian). The sophomore guard nailed a 3-pointer from the left side for an 11-5 advantage. Ahead 14-6, Brieanna Miller (Moss Point) scored an old-fashioned three-pointer when she battled several defenders for a rebound under the basket and then converted her put-back — plus the ensuing free throw.
PRCC took a 19-9 lead into the break, but Co-Lin came out firing to score seven unanswered and pull within three, 19-6.
The Wolves only scored five more points the rest of the half. PRCC clamped down defensively, scoring twice in transition off steals from Alannah "Hollywood" Turner (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Smith.
Thanks to a 12-5 run, PRCC closed the half back ahead by 10 with a 31-21 advantage.
Another run out of halftime, bookended by a Smith jumper and 3-pointer, pushed PRCC ahead 40-23.
Much like the last two quarters, PRCC's defense led the way in the third as the Wildcats swarmed Co-Lin in the open court, forced turnovers and out-muscled its opponent on the boards. The dominance led to a 51-31 lead through three quarters.
The fourth quarter was much tighter with the Wolves trying to scrap back into the contest. Jumpers from Smith and another from Burrage gave the Wildcats a 57-37 lead and although Co-Lin caught fire momentarily PRCC weathered the storm and did just enough offensively to maintain a commanding lead.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening — definitely the fourth quarter — came in the final two minutes of the contest when Olivia Mosley (Pearl) heaved up a desperation 3 from on top of the Wildcat head at midcourt and sent it through the twine for a 64-47 lead.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock the PRCC student section — filled with the bulk of the football, softball and baseball rosters — stormed the court to celebrate the win with the Wildcats.
"This means a lot to me because I know that Co-Lin has been the standard," Fletcher said. "That's a good ballclub. Tonight was a total team win."
Smith continues to have the hot hand for PRCC. The sophomore once again led PRCC in scoring with 20 points. She also dished out a team-high five assists.
Linzy finished second on the team in scoring with 10 points. Mosley led PRCC on the glass with nine rebounds.
After back-to-back home games, Pearl River will hit the road Monday to face East Central. PRCC returns to Marvin R. White Coliseum Thursday to play Jones College. Both doubleheaders 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.