East Mississippi splits with rival Itawamba on the road in a pair of double-overtime division hoops thrillers

FULTON – In a pair of double-overtime thrillers, the visiting East Mississippi Community College basketball teams split with division front-runners Itawamba during Tuesday's exciting MACJC North Division doubleheader action played at ICC's Davis Event Center.  Following a 74-70 EMCC victory in the women's game, the home-standing Indians held off the Lions for a 107-103 triumph in the nightcap.

In Tuesday's opener, EMCC sophomore Wilma Davis' 10 first-half points helped stake the visitors to a 31-27 halftime lead.  The Lady Lions maintained their advantage throughout the opening 13 minutes of the second stanza before 10 unanswered ICC points turned a nine-point EMCC lead (48-39) into a one-point edge (49-48) for the Lady Indians with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation.

With reserve guard Lashyra Butler leading the charge for East Mississippi in the second half, the visitors grabbed a 57-54 lead on her three-point play with 1:02 left in regulation.  The two teams traded empty possessions over the next minute until ICC's Leslie Robinson connected on a step-back 3-pointer to send the contest into a first overtime session.

Things looked somewhat bleak for EMCC in the latter portion of the first overtime, as Butler committed a turnover and fouled Ricki Hooker with just 6.3 ticks left on the game clock.  After Hooker made the first free throw to put the Lady Indians up 63-61, Butler made amends by finding an open Takera Mitchell on the right wing for a game-tying jumper at the buzzer.

The visitors carried the momentum into the second overtime with Mitchell and Davis each hitting a pair of free throws to give the Lady Lions a lead they would not relinquish.  Davis then converted a put-back basket midway through the final period to increase the EMCC lead to 71-66.  The Lady Indians fought back to cut the deficit to a single point (71-70) with 1:07 remaining, but a Kyra Gulledge basket underneath and a subsequent 1-of-2 trip to the charity stripe for Mitchell secured the four-point road triumph for the Lady Lions.

With their first victory over Itawamba since the 2010-11 season, the EMCC women upped their overall record to 8-6 on the year and 3-1 in division play.  In addition, the road win over the reigning NJCAA Region 23 women's champions gave East Mississippi women's coach Sharon Thompson her 100th career victory on her birthday.

Butler, from Clearwater, Fla., tallied 13 of her season-high 17 points following intermission to pace a balanced EMCC scoring attack.  Gulledge followed with 15 points, while Davis and Mitchell added 14 and 13 points, respectively.  

Dropping to 8-7 overall and falling for the first time in five division outings, the ICC women received a game-high 23 points from current MACJC Women's Basketball Player of the Week Jayla Chills.  Kaelin Kneeland and Lytia Coleman added 11 points apiece. 

The men's nightcap proved to be just as entertaining from the opening tip, as the pair of sharp-shooting teams combined for 13 made three-point field goals in 25 first-half attempts.  With the visitors trailing by eight points on a couple of occasions during the first 20 minutes of action, the Lions outscored ICC 10-4 down the first-half stretch to move ahead 44-41 by the break.

Both teams maintained the high-scoring pace throughout the second stanza.  Once the Indians reclaimed the advantage early in the half, they secured the lead for most of the period with the exception of five second-half ties.  ICC again went up by eight points (76-68) on an Alex Anderson 3-pointer with around seven minutes left in regulation.

Despite two of their leading scorers in the game – Avery Woodson and Davon "Chuck" Ester - fouling out within a minute of one another over the final five minutes of regulation, the under-manned Lions battled back to take a brief 87-86 lead on a Devonta Pollard basket with 1:30 left on the game clock.  Following a Lakee Westbrook 3-pointer for ICC and a countering Nick Giles floater in the lane to knot the score at 89-all, the visitors had an opportunity to win the game in regulation.  However, Jacolby Mobley's contested drive down the middle of the lane came up empty to also send the nightcap into the first of two extra sessions.

The low-scoring first overtime came down to a dramatic conclusion where the home team seemingly had the game in hand.  After Pollard was called for stepping on the baseline under EMCC's basket, and the Lions trailing 93-92 with a fraction of a second remaining, ICC's Johnthan McGee inadvertently fouled Mack Foster near midcourt while both players were going for the ball as the Indians inbounded the ball from the backcourt.  With no time remaining on the game clock, Foster calmly sank the first free throw to tie the score.  Following a timeout and with a chance to win the game, Foster's second attempt bounced off the back of the rim sending the contest into a second overtime.

Down to six available players after Giles fouled out with a minute left, the Lions held a precarious 103-102 lead after Pollard fought off a double team and worked in the lane for a basket.  Following missed scoring opportunities for both teams, ICC's Westbrook was fouled on a three-point attempt from the left corner with just 3.1 ticks left.  After Westbrook nailed all three charity tosses to put the Indians on top 105-103, EMCC's ensuing full-court heave sailed out of bounds.  Austin Timms added a pair of late free throws to account for the final outcome.

Now 9-4 overall and falling to 1-2 in division play, head coach Mark White's EMCC Lions were led by Woodson's 23 points despite the University of Memphis signee fouling out with 3:28 remaining in regulation.  Pollard, the former McDonald's All-American at Kemper County High School, added a season-high 20 points, including 18 following the halftime break after being saddled with first-half foul trouble.

Improving to 10-5 overall and remaining unbeaten in five division outings, the ICC Indians were paced by Anderson's game-high 25 points.  Starkville native Tory Rice followed with 18 points, while McGee and Westbrook added 16 points apiece for the winners.

The East Mississippi basketball teams return home to play host to division foe Northwest Mississippi Community College Thursday 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.