SENATOBIA – The East Mississippi Community College women's basketball team secured at least a share of the MACJC North Division title with Monday's 72-64 road win over Northwest Mississippi at Howard Coliseum. In contrast, the EMCC men saw their chances of possibly hosting next week's MACJC State Basketball Tournament perhaps slip away after dropping an 86-83 decision to the host Rangers in the nightcap.
In women's action, the Lady Lions scored nine unanswered points late in the first half to regain a lead they would never again relinquish. A 32-26 EMCC halftime advantage doubled when Brittany Brown's jumper made it 45-33 five minutes into the second stanza.
The visitors were never seriously challenged after that in maintaining a double-digit margin for most of the second half. A couple of late 3-pointers by the Lady Rangers resulted in the eight-point outcome.
Earning their first MACJC North Division regular-season title since the 2010-11 season and third division crown overall under head coach Sharon Thompson's guidance, the EMCC Lady Lions improved to 15-7 overall with their ninth consecutive division win. The EMCC women, 10-1 in division play, will have an opportunity to win the division outright with a victory over visiting Coahoma during Thursday's "Sophomore Night" contest in Scooba.
Former Clarkdale product Charmane Tims led the Lady Lions in scoring with 14 points, followed by Savannah Kimmons with 13 points. Also in double figures for the winners were Takera Mitchell and Jaylen Cox with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Mitchell, a former Wayne County standout, was also credited with 10 assists and six rebounds in the contest.
Dropping to 12-7 overall and 6-5 within the division, the Northwest Lady Rangers received a game-high 31 points from Carshava Sutton, who scored nearly half of her team's points and connected on 17-of-22 from the charity stripe.
In the men's nightcap, the visiting EMCC Lions got off to good start shooting 52 percent from the field and 81 percent from the line in taking a 49-42 halftime lead, despite sophomore guards Jacolby Mobley and Nick Giles both being saddled with two early fouls and sitting for most of the opening 20 minutes of play.
Following two free throws and a basket from Mack Foster to begin the second half, the Lions' lead grew to 11 points (53-42), before the Rangers went on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to 55-52 on a Rashon Coleman 3-pointer. The lead would then change hands three times midway through the half.
A put-back basket and a baseline drive by Aston Morton seemed to give the Rangers some momentum, as the home team began to establish control of the game with timely offensive rebounding. Northwest continued to build on the lead, going up by seven points (79-72) with 4:01 remaining in the contest.
The visitors spent the rest of the game trying to catch Northwest but were slowed ultimately by costly turnovers down the stretch. With the Rangers seemingly enjoying a six-point lead (84-78) with 32.1 seconds left after two Tristan Moore free throws, Mobley cut the deficit in half with a 3-pointer eight seconds later. With a chance to perhaps seal the victory for the home team, Moore then misfired on both attempts on his next trip to the charity stripe. Mobley, the reigning MACJC Men's Basketball Player of the Week, took advantage of the opening by racing down the floor for a quick bucket to make the score 84-83 with just 10 seconds remaining.
Northwest's Coleman was then fouled in the backcourt and calmly sank both free throws with 7.8 ticks left. Still a one-possession game and following an EMCC timeout, Mobley's deep three-point attempt was off target to secure the Rangers' three-point home victory.
Still with a chance to create a three-way tie for first place in the division (with Itawamba and Northwest) by first playing host to Coahoma on Thursday and then finishing up a suspended home contest against Holmes later in the week, head coach Mark White's EMCC Lions fell to 16-5 overall and 7-3 within the division. The three-point road loss also snapped a seven-game winning streak for the four-time reigning MACJC North Division and NJCAA Region 23 champions.
Foster, a Louisiana-Monroe signee, scored a season-high 19 points to lead a quintet of double-digit EMCC scorers. Justin Kinsey was next with a dozen points, followed by Mobley and Davon "Chuck" Ester with 11 apiece. Avery Woodson, a Memphis signee and the Lions' leading scorer on the season, was held to 10 points on just 2-of-12 shooting from the field.
Improving to 12-8 overall and 8-3 in division play, the Northwest Rangers were led by Coleman's game-high 21 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point arc and 7-of-8 accuracy from the line.
The East Mississippi basketball teams will entertain visiting Coahoma Community College for Thursday's "Sophomore Night" festivities on the Scooba campus. A 5:30 p.m. women's game will be followed by a 7:30 men's contest at EMCC's Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.
The 2014 MACJC State Basketball Tournament, set to be played at the site of this year's MACJC North Division men's No. 1 seed, will tip off next week. Men's first-round play begins Monday (Feb. 24) followed by women's opening-round action on Tuesday.