POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The annual Cat Fight lived up to its rivalry billing Thursday night inside Marvin R. White Coliseum.
Pearl River fell behind No. 10 Jones College in the middle frames but made things interesting in the fourth before the visiting Bobcats pulled away late for a 70-60 victory.
"You have to make championship plays and we just didn't do as good of a job as them. That's a good ballclub. For us to get down 17 and bounce back to get within two is a credit to our girls. I'm very proud of our girls with the way they responded," Pearl River coach Scotty Fletcher said. "We were very disappointed with their effort on Monday. They knew it. We saw it on film. But tonight I didn't think we laid down. We fought as hard as we could have. We didn't let shot making and shot missing determine how hard we played.
"There were a lot of good things to take away from this game. We have to continue to compete at a high level."
FROM LONG RANGE
Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton) paced PRCC from long range early in the contest. The sophomore guard hit three 3-pointers, first giving PRCC an early 3-2 lead, then pushing the Wildcats back ahead 6-4. Her third long-range shot of the quarter helped pull PRCC within two, 13-11, late in the frame.
The Wildcats (11-8 overall, 4-6 MACJC South) tied it up 13-13 in the final seconds of the quarter when Alanna Smith (Picayune) came away with the ball from a scramble, dashed down the court and knocked down a pullup jumper just above the free throw line.
The game started to open up in favor of the road team in the second half. Each team traded baskets early on, however Jones put together a 10-4 run to take a 27-22 lead into halftime.
Both teams once again traded shots early in the third but a 12-0 run by the visitors built a 43-28 advantage for the Bobcats (16-2, 10-0).
The Wildcats were undeterred, however, and turned in a big run of their own.
Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) and Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) combined for three free throws early in the 11-2 run. After a JC bucket. Olivia Mosley (Pearl) caught fire, scoring six straight, on a jumper, put-back and two free throws. Smith capped the drive with 50 seconds remaining in the third when she pulled up for a jumper. The basket pulled PRCC within 10, 50-41, for the first time in seven minutes.
A late free throw kept the Wildcats within striking distance, down 52-42 going into the final frame.
With several Bobcats in foul trouble, the Wildcats made their run at the lead. A Smith jumper 2:16 into the frame pulled the deficit within double digits at 56-47.
Following a JC basket, Allanah Turner (Gulfport; West Harrison) made a nifty dash through traffic, going back against the grain of the defense. The score put PRCC down nine, 58-49.
Although JC went back ahead 61-49, the Wildcats never wavered.
Smith sliced through traffic for an athletic layup to jumpstart a 10-0 run. The Wildcats played inspired ball during the two minute stretch, forcing an offensive turnover from JC and later playing so tight defensively that the Bobcats let the shot clock expire.
Another Smith layup was sandwiched by two Linzy 3-pointers from way behind the arc. The second long-ranger dagger, Linzy's fifth of the night, pulled the deficit to two, 61-59.
The Bobcats closed out the final 2:31 of the game on a 9-1 run, however, to narrowly avoid the upset.
"I'm very proud of our girls," Fletcher said. "They showed a lot of heart. It got loud in here. This environment is unbelievable."
LEADING THE WAY
Sparked by her long-range abilities, Linzy led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points.
"Pooh played spectacular — she always plays well against Jones," Fletcher said.
Smith had another strong performance for the Wildcats, scoring 15 points with team highs in assists (four) and steals (3).
Mosley rounded out PRCC's leading scorers with eight points.
Shania Wright (Clinton) led the Wildcats with eight rebounds. She also blocked three Bobcat shots.
The Wildcats will hit the road next week, visiting Hinds on Monday and then traveling to Gulf Coast on Thursday. Both doubleheaders will start at 5:30 p.m.
"This will be a really good test for us to see if we're mature enough to bounce back and respond since we didn't have our best game," Fletcher said. "I think our girls are up for the challenge. Our backs are against the wall and we know that."
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.