FULTON – Making their first postseason appearance in three years, the East Mississippi Community College women's basketball team couldn't overcome a 40-point performance by Southwest Mississippi's Katrina Littlepage in falling to the Lady Bears, 66-61, during Tuesday's quarterfinals of the MACJC State Basketball Tournament being played at the Davis Event Center on the Itawamba Community College campus.
As the MACJC's North Division champions and seeded first, EMCC's Lady Lions played Southwest, the South's No. 4 seed, to a 31-31 halftime tie. The opening 20 minutes of play featured 14 lead changes and six deadlocks.
After the break, the EMCC women went on top, 36-34, early in the second stanza on a Takera Mitchell three-point play and a put-back basket by Kyra Gulledge. That's when Littlepage and the Lady Bears began to take control of the contest. The Slidell, La., product scored nine straight points during an 11-0 run that put Southwest in front, 45-36.
Midway through the period, the Lady Lions cut the deficit to a basket (50-48) with an 8-2 spurt. However, a three-point play by Southwest's Tee Myers, coupled by missed opportunities on the offensive end by EMCC, contributed to seven unanswered points by the Lady Bears that bumped the lead back up to nine points (57-48) with five minutes remaining in the contest.
Down by double digits (61-51) with 3:35 left on the game clock, East Mississippi made one final rally with an 8-1 run that was capped by Jaylen Cox's pair of free throws to make it a one-possession game at 62-59 with 40.1 seconds to play. With EMCC forced to foul down the stretch, Littlepage concluded a 20-of-26 effort at the line with four more charity tosses over the game's final 31 seconds to account for the final margin.
Littlepage, a 5-foot-6 sophomore guard, tallied 25 of her career-high 40 points following intermission. She connected on nine field goals in the contest, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go along with her 20 made free throws.
Falling to 16-8 on the season but having secured a spot in next week's NJCAA Region 23 Tournament (March 5-8) in Clinton, head coach Sharon Thompson's EMCC Lady Lions were led by Gulledge's season-high 19 points. The former H.W. Byers High School standout hit 7-of-9 field goals and all five free throws along with collecting seven rebounds. Mitchell and fellow sophomore guard Wilma Davis followed with 14 and 12 points, respectively, for East Mississippi.
Southwest Mississippi advances to Wednesday's semifinals and will take on South No. 2 seed Meridian Community College in a 1 p.m. contest. In Tuesday's other early quarterfinal-round action, the MCC Lady Eagles claimed an 85-77 overtime victory over North No. 3 seed Mississippi Delta.
In men's tournament play, head coach Mark White's 18-5 EMCC Lions, seeded second in the MACJC's North Division standings, will meet South No. 1 seed and 19th-ranked Jones County Junior College in Wednesday's 3 p.m. semifinals to earn the right to advance to Thursday's championship contest.