ELLISVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River women's basketball team saw its season end Monday evening when it fell at No.1 Jones College 67-52 in the Region XXIII Tournament quarterfinals.
"First and foremost, I would be remiss if I didn't give a big shoutout to our girls for the way that they battled not only tonight, but for the whole season," head coach Scotty Fletcher said. "Obviously COVID-19 hit us hard for five straight weeks. We played just a few games. Two in 43 days and three in 48. We were able to get our first playoff win. For our girls to battle like they did, it makes it an honor to be their coach, and I don't take that responsibility lightly."
The Wildcats (5-4 overall) went toe-to-toe with the Bobcats (18-0) in the first quarter of the contest after Keshunti Nichols (Pearl) laid in a well placed pass from Brandy Scott (Hammond, La.). Jones converted an and-one to take a lead it never relinquished taking a 15-10 lead into the second quarter.
Bryanna Taylor (Terry) cut the deficit to three points to start the second quarter after she rebounded her own shot and put it back to make it a 15-12 contest. After that, the Wildcats got the lead within six two times in the second quarter after back-to-back putbacks by Marcavia Shavers (Biloxi) and two free throws made by Ty'Mesha Reed (Meridian). The Bobcats however continued to pace in the second outscoring PRCC 17-11 to take a 32-21 lead into the half.
The third quarter saw Jones flex its muscles defensively, stifling the Wildcats offense for most of the quarter and only allowing 11 points once again.
The Bobcats continued their pace well into the fourth quarter to secure the 67-52 win.
"I thought the difference in the game tonight was the guard play," Fletcher said. "That's what separated the game. Their guard play was a little bit better than ours, and we had 23 turnovers which is way too many. At the end of the day, hats off to them. They made the plays. We had to control and contain their guards and we didn't do such a great job of that tonight."
The Wildcats out rebounded Jones 41-37 and shot 36 percent from the floor compared the Bobcats' 30.6 percent.
"Our girls played very hard," Fletcher said. "Our post players were very good tonight. They were very efficient."
Shavers led the Wildcats in points with 13 followed by Taylor who scored 12.
Taylor also pulled in 11 rebounds, which led the team and was her first double-double of the season.
"The thing about Bryanna is that she hasn't practiced since we played on Wednesday," Fletcher said. "She had an abdominal strain, so for her to play 34 minutes and play the way that she did is a credit to her character."
The Wildcats faced adversity on and off the court during the 20-21 season. PRCC had much of its season derailed due to COVID-19 issues which costs the Wildcats 10 games.
"The fact that these girls had to go through all these issues and still bought in and played hard says all you need to about them," Fletcher said.
Two highlights of the Wildcats' season were when they went on the road to defeat arch-rival Gulf Coast 70-55 and also went on the road to upset Meridian 66-62 on its sophomore night in their regular season finale.
"For us to play through all these obstacles and then win our first postseason game since I've been here, man it's huge," Fletcher said.
The Wildcats close the book on what is their fourth straight winning season under Fletcher but while their season came to an end Monday, Wildcat fans have a lot to look forward to next season. Nine of the Wildcats' 12 players were freshmen this season and Fletcher is hopeful that the returning experience will give PRCC a veteran presence for the 21-22 season.
"We've obviously got to work to get better but I like what we have coming back," Fletcher said. "There were several times this year where we had four and even five freshmen on the court at the same time. So that will pay dividends for us in the future. The future is very bright for women's basketball here at Pearl River."