ELLISVILLE – The MACJC North Division champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College won their seventh straight game with a 70-53 victory over East Central Community College during Tuesday's quarterfinals of the MACJC State Basketball Tournament being played at A.B. Howard Gymnasium on the Jones College campus.
Improving to 17-7 overall, Coach Billy Begley's No. 1-seeded EMCC Lions advance to take on 15th-ranked Pearl River at 3 p.m. during Wednesday's semifinals. The Wildcats, seeded second in the MACJC's South Division with a 22-2 overall record, claimed a 60-48 win over Holmes during Tuesday's first quarterfinal-round men's contest.
Pitting two of the MACJC's hottest men's basketball teams heading into this week's state tournament, EMCC avenged a regular-season sweep by East Central with the 17-point postseason victory over the Warriors after falling to ECCC in Decatur (73-66) and Scooba (58-57) earlier in the season.
After the two rivals battled through seven ties during the opening half, the Lions responded to East Central's only lead of the game (26-25) coming with five minutes remaining in the half by scoring eight unanswered points on four straight trips to the charity stripe to take a 33-26 lead at the 2:51 mark. The Warriors cut the deficit to four points (36-32) by halftime on a pair of Roti Ware baskets late in the half.
Other than an eighth and final deadlock (38-38) four minutes into the second stanza, EMCC led the entire second half. After that, East Central got to within a basket on four separate occasions early in the half but could never reclaim the lead.
After missing his first seven shot attempts from the field, sophomore guard Robert Davis Jr. gave the Lions a seven-point lead (55-48) on a 3-pointer with five minutes left. A minute later, the Clinton product then put back his own miss to begin a decisive 14-2 EMCC run over the game's final four minutes that turned a competitive five-point contest into a misleading 17-point outcome.
EMCC sophomore forward Darrious Agnew led all scorers by tying his career high with 21 points on 7-of-12 field goals and 7-of-10 free throws. The Starkville native also pulled down eight rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. Fellow sophomore Terryonte Thomas, a former New Hope standout, just missed a double-double with 17 points (10-10 FTs) and nine rebounds in 36 minutes of turnover-free basketball. As a team, the Lions only committed five turnovers in the game. Freshman guard Donte Powers, also from Starkville, added 11 points for the winners.
Entering this week's state tournament on a five-game win streak to claim the MACJC South Division's No. 4 seed, East Central was led by Ware's 18 points. Marcus Bates added 11 points and six boards for the 13-11 Warriors.
Wednesday's EMCC-PRCC semifinal-round MACJC state tournament clash is slated to be live streamed at www.EMCCAthletics.com/live with Austin Buchanan set to describe all of the play-by-play action.