SCOOBA – With five players scoring in double figures, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College successfully tipped off the 2019-20 basketball season with an easy 116-70 home victory over Blessed IJN Prep during Friday afternoon men's action at EMCC's Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.
A 13-0 run ignited by an Arecko Gipson Jr. 3-pointer and back-to-back baskets by Donte Powers helped the Lions overcome an early deficit. After doubling up the visiting Gladiators, 34-17, by the midway point of the opening half, EMCC extended the margin to 30 points (62-32) on a Jakorie Smith 3-pointer late in the half on the way to building a 63-37 halftime advantage. Powers (13), Gipson (12) and Smith (12) all reached double digits during the opening 20 minutes of play and combined for 37 points by the intermission.
The Lions' balanced scoring continued during the second half as Coach Billy Begley opted to go to his deep bench early to give all 14 of his available players some meaningful playing time. A Traemond Pittman bucket midway through the second stanza doubled up the score, 82-41, before Kon Ajang's basket put EMCC over the century mark (101-56) with five minutes remaining in the contest. The lead then lengthened to 50 points (112-62) on Isaiah Hardy's banked 3-pointer late in the game.
Powers, from Starkville, finished with a game-high 19 points for the winners along with totaling six rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. Gipson, out of Memphis, followed with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Smith, a former Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection from Raymond High School, added 14 points and seven rebounds while also sitting out much of the second half.
Off the bench for the reigning MACJC champion EMCC Lions, Meridian's Pittman knocked down all six of his shot attempts for a dozen points, while Romeo Sanders, a Caledonia High School product, added 11 points in the winning effort.
Cortez Thomas and Jaylon Taylor led Jackson-based Blessed IJN Prep with 17 and 13 points, respectively.
The East Mississippi basketball teams will travel to Meridian on Monday for hoops doubleheader action against the Meridian Community College Eagles. A 5:30 p.m. women's game will be followed by a 7:30 p.m. men's contest at MCC's Graham Gymnasium.