FULTON – The East Mississippi Community College men's basketball team scored the last seven points of the game to grab a hard-earned 68-64 road win over Itawamba Community College during Thursday night MACJC North Division hoops action played at ICC's Davis Event Center. In the women's contest, the visiting Lady Lions dropped a 77-56 decision to the divisional front-running ICC Lady Indians.
The tightly contested men's battle saw the visiting Lions jump out to a 13-point lead (29-16) on Terryonte Thomas' three-point play with 5:55 remaining in the opening half. Aided by the three-point shooting of Rance Champ and Shamar Brown, Itawamba went on an 8-0 scoring run to close out the half and whittle EMCC's halftime lead to 35-32.
The second-half margin stayed within four points the entire 20 minutes. The two teams battled through five lead changes during the early stages of the second stanza. Following a 59-59 tie on Markedric Bell's put-back basket, ICC's Akeem Kirkwood staked the home team to a pair of three-point leads with a 3-pointer that beat the shot clock buzzer and later with a bucket off the offensive boards. The latter, however, coming with just under five minutes remaining, would mark Itawamba's final points of the game.
While holding the Indians scoreless down the stretch, the Lions scored their last nine points of the contest from the charity stripe. After EMCC reclaimed the lead for good at 65-64 on Darrious Agnew's 1-of-2 effort from the line with 1:43 remaining, the two teams exchanged missed shots and turnovers before Agnew went back to the stripe to knock down both free throws and extend the lead to three points with 28 seconds left on the game clock.
Following a timeout called by Itawamba, Agnew then made his presence felt on the defensive end by altering Ma'Darius Hobson's potential game-tying, three-point attempt from the corner. EMCC's Malik Harper was fouled after collecting the short shot attempt and promptly sealed the contest by nailing 1-of-2 charity tosses.
Improving to 10-6 overall and tied atop the MACJC North Division men's standings with a 4-1 mark, Coach Billy Begley's EMCC Lions were led by Thomas and Dewayne Cox with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Starkville products Bell (8 pts/11 rebs) and Agnew (7/9) combined for 15 points and 20 rebounds for the winners.
Falling to 7-9 overall and 1-4 within the division, the ICC Indians had five players score in double figures. Combining for 7-of-15 three-point shooting between them, Brown and Champ led the way with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
In women's action, the Lady Lions grabbed an 18-11 lead late in the opening quarter before Itawamba capitalized on back-to-back EMCC turnovers to score six quick points over the final 28 seconds of the period. The Lady Indians continued their 15-0 run by scoring the first nine points of the second quarter to initially establish control of the game.
ICC then extended its 39-33 halftime lead to double figures (46-33) by scoring the first seven points of the second stanza. The margin, for the most part, stayed at twin digits for the remainder of the contest. Leading 54-44 heading into the fourth quarter, the Lady Indians forced some backcourt turnovers to open the final period with a 6-0 run en route to outscoring EMCC, 23-12, over the game's final 10 minutes and handily securing the 21-point home triumph.
Freshman post player Maddie Riley registered her fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and a dozen rebounds for Coach Sharon Thompson's Lady Lions, who dropped to 6-10 overall and 3-2 in division play. Aamiya Rush and Brianna Page added 11 points apiece for the visitors.
Putting 12 players in the scoring column and improving to 13-2 overall and 5-0 in the division with their 11th consecutive win, ICC's Lady Indians were paced by Shaniyah Buford's game-high 18 points off the bench. Sarah Berryman added 10 points for the winners.
The East Mississippi basketball teams will complete the first rotation of the MACJC's North Division regular-season slate by playing host to the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi Community College Monday evening on the Scooba campus. A 5:30 p.m. women's game will be followed by a 7:30 p.m. men's contest at EMCC's Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.