MERIDIAN, Miss. — Pearl River's instructions entering Thursday's regular season finale at Meridian were as straight forward as they get: Win. Just win.
It didn't matter how; win and their season gets prolonged. Lose, and they're packing up their equipment.
PRCC came out the gate strong and did what it needed to do down the stretch to secure a 55-49 win over Meridian.
The win secures a spot in next week's MACJC Tournament for the second consecutive year. Prior to last season, PRCC (15-8 overall, 8-6 MACJC South) had not made the post-season since 2013-14.
"They gave great effort and were ready to play. We had to win every quarter like we did to walk away," Pearl River coach Scotty Fletcher said. "This team is very talented but our girls were good tonight. We have to make those killer instinct plays. We had some wide open shots we didn't make. There are some things to clean up.
"The way we ended the game is not how I wanted to end the game, but all in all I'm proud of the girls."
The win was PRCC's fifth straight over Meridian, dating back to the 2017-18 season.
PRCC's recent theme of "determination" was evident early on Thursday. MCC scored the first four points of the game, but the Wildcats shot past the Eagles thanks to two free throws from Shania Wright (Clinton) and back-to-back 3-pointers from Otashae Burrage (Carthage; Leake County) and Mychala "Pooh" Linzy (Clinton).
"Those were huge and we had to have those," Fletcher said. "Every point tonight was critical."
The hosts pulled within three, 13-10, but the Wildcats closed out the first quarter with nine unanswered points to lead 22-10 after the first quarter. Jakia Harper (Jackson; Provine) started the run with a jumper. MCC (4-15, 5-9) called a timeout following an Allanah Turner (Gulfport; West Harrison) steal and layup put PRCC ahead 17-10.
Wright and Maliyah Bullard (Pass Christian) made back to back baskets and Harper closed out the run with a free throw, leading PRCC into the break with a 22-10 lead.
The two teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter, but PRCC still held a 34-22 lead at halftime.
Wright opened the second half with a putback bucket but MCC quickly pulled within 10, 38-28. Although points were at a premium in the third quarter, PRCC closed the frame strong, scoring 8 of 10. Wright scored on another putback and sunk two free throws. Brieanna Miller (Moss Point) added a free throw and then Olivia Mosley (Pearl) scored on a missed free throw to give the Wildcats a 45-30 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
Meridian came out firing and climbed back into the game with three 3-pointers.
Clinging to a 49-43 lead, Wright came up big once again, scoring a basket from the flow of play and then a putback to extend PRCC's lead to 51-43.
Although a couple miscues allowed Meridian to remain within striking distance, the Wildcats did just enough down the stretch to clinch a playoff spot.
Wright and another big night for the Wildcats, leading PRCC with 16 points.
"She was amazing," Fletcher said. "Look at the growth she's made from Day 1."
Linzy finished the game second on the team with 10 points.
"Our sophomores are special," Fletcher said. "They came here and changed the culture and the program and everything. I can't say enough about them."
HOW TO TUNE IN
All MACJC and Region XXIII tournament games will be livestreamed on 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. Games can also be heard on WRJW 1320 AM, WRJWRadio.com or by downloading the WRJW app.