FULTON – Playing from behind most of the contest, the East Mississippi Community College men's basketball team made a late surge over the game's final five minutes to claim a 73-68 win over the reigning MACJC State Champion Wildcats of Pearl River Community College during Monday's opening round of the MACJC State Basketball Tournament. This week's four-day tournament is being played at the Davis Event Center on the Itawamba Community College campus.
Seeded second from the MACJC's North Division, head coach Mark White's 18-5 EMCC Lions now advance to meet South No. 1 seed Jones County Junior College in Wednesday's 3 p.m. semifinal-round contest. JCJC prevailed, 84-57, over North No. 4 seed Coahoma in other first-round men's action. Pearl River, now 16-7 overall, entered this week's tournament as the No. 3 seed from the MACJC's South Division.
Pearl River raced out of the gates taking a 10-0 lead before the Lions could score their first points five minutes into the contest on a Davon "Chuck" Ester put-back basket. The Wildcats would go on to claim two subsequent 10-point leads later in the half, but EMCC went on an 8-4 run to trim the deficit to six points (38-32) by the intermission.
Following the break, the Lions put together their first of two 9-0 runs in the second half to knot the score at 43-43 on a three-point basket from the left corner by Louisiana-Monroe signee Mack Foster five minutes into the period. Pearl River responded with an 11-3 spurt to move back ahead by eight points (54-46) midway through the half.
With Tennessee-Chattanooga signee Jacolby Mobley knocking down 3-pointers and driving to the rim en route to pumping in 15 second-half points, East Mississippi grabbed its first lead of the game with another Foster 3-pointer from the left corner at the 5:35 mark. After PRCC briefly reclaimed the advantage, the Lions rallied for another 9-0 surge over the next three minutes to take a 67-59 lead with 1:46 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats made one final comeback bid when Rakeem Esco's 3-pointer and a three-point play by DeAngelo Coleman cut the deficit to a basket (67-65) with 1:17 left. Mobley quickly halted Pearl River's momentum with a clutch drive to the rim. The Starkville native then added two free throws, as did Ester, during the game's waning seconds to seal EMCC's first-round, five-point triumph.
Mobley led all scorers with 25 points for his sixth 20-point effort of the season. Ester, who registered his third double-double of the year by also collecting a team-high 10 rebounds, and Foster followed with 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the winners.
Pearl River was paced by Quintarius Porter's 17 points, while Coleman and Jeremy Hollimon added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
In Tuesday's opening-round women's action of this week's ICC-hosted MACJC State Basketball Tournament, head coach Sharon Thompson's MACJC North Division Champion EMCC Lady Lions will take on Southwest Mississippi Community College at 3 p.m. at ICC's Davis Event Center.