CLINTON – The East Mississippi Community College women's basketball team never recovered from a game-changing 15-0 run early in the second half by Southwest Mississippi en route to dropping a 72-64 decision during Wednesday's quarterfinals of the NJCAA Region 23 Basketball Tournament played at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
Closing out the season with a 16-9 overall record despite back-to-back postseason setbacks to the SMCC Lady Bears to conclude the year, head coach Sharon Thompson's 2013-14 MACJC North Division champions posted the most wins by an EMCC women's team since her 2008-09 Lady Lions went 25-7 while claiming division and regional titles on the way to making an appearance in the NJCAA Division I Women's National Tournament in Salina, Kan. EMCC's 16 wins this season were two more than the previous two Lady Lion teams managed during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons combined.
On the heels of last week's 66-61 loss to Southwest Mississippi in the quarterfinals of the MACJC State Tournament played in Fulton, the Lady Lions came out a bit sluggish in Wednesday's rematch. After trailing 7-2 early in the contest, EMCC started clicking on offense and mounted a 22-14 lead. The lead was trimmed to a single point (28-27) by the intermission after four consecutive free throws by Katrina Littlepage over the half's final 27 seconds.
The second half began on a positive note for the Lady Lions with West Point's Wilma Davis nailing a 3-pointer to give them a 31-27 lead. That's when things began to unravel for the EMCC women while making their first regional appearance in three years. The Lady Bears, last week's MACJC State Tournament runners-up to Jones County, promptly reeled off 15 unanswered points to turn a four-point deficit into an 11-point advantage (42-31) five minutes into the second stanza.
Southwest's advantage increased to 15 points midway through the half, as EMCC battled to knock the margin down to single digits. The Lady Lions were able to do just that on a Davis floater that made it 64-56 with 3:05 still left to play. They managed to get even closer a minute later when Savannah Kimmons converted a put-back basket inside and Takera Mitchell scored on the ensuing play when Precious Rogers picked off the inbounds pass and quickly found Mitchell under the goal. Those back-to-back buckets made it a seven-point contest (69-62) with just under two minutes remaining.
However, on Southwest's next possession, reserve forward Madison Mault knocked down a clutch jumper from the free throw line to essentially seal the contest and give the Lady Bears their 20th win of the season.
Kimmons, a sophomore post player from Horn Lake High School, led East Mississippi with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. Mitchell, from Wayne County, followed with 16 points in her final collegiate contest for the Lady Lions.
Littlepage, who pumped in a career-high 40 points against EMCC in last week's MACJC State Tournament meeting, again paced all game scorers with 23 points.