MERIDIAN – In their first basketball action of the new calendar year following the holiday break, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College used a 16-0 run early in the second half to break open a close contest en route to posting an 80-68 road victory over rival Meridian Community College Thursday evening at Graham Gymnasium. In women's action, the Meridian Lady Eagles claimed a 70-51 triumph over the visiting EMCC Lady Lions.
In the opener, the home-standing Lady Eagles grabbed a 16-9 lead by the end of the opening quarter. EMCC trimmed the deficit to three points (22-19) on Aamiya Rush's 3-pointer at the 2:40 mark of the second quarter, but Meridian answered by outscoring the visitors, 9-4, the remainder of the period to take a 31-23 halftime advantage.
After MCC's lead grew to double digits shortly following the break, the Lady Lions briefly cut into the deficit (39-31) midway through the third quarter on back-to-back baskets by Tatyana Norment and Emily Evans. Meridian responded with an 11-5 run to close out the period and take a 50-36 advantage into the fourth quarter. The margin increased to 20 points (60-40) on DaKeiya Cooley's inbounds bucket at the 7:15 mark, as the Lady Eagles went on to complete their season sweep over EMCC.
Slowed by 29 turnovers in the contest, Coach Sharon Thompson's 4-7 EMCC Lady Lions were led by Rush's 12 points. Fellow freshman Maddie Riley followed with nine points and 11 rebounds.
MCC's Cooley paced all scorers with 19 points, while LaChrisha Williams added 13 points for the winners.
The men's nightcap featured five lead changes and a pair of ties during the opening 14 minutes of play before the teams traded runs at the end of the first half. A 9-0 spurt by EMCC pushed a one-point lead to double figures (29-19), but the Eagles responded by scoring the last seven points over the final minute of the half to cut their deficit to three points (29-26) by the intermission.
After the teams then traded 3-pointers and a pair of made free throws during the early moments of the second stanza, a tip-in basket by EMCC's Dewayne Cox and a three-point play by fellow sophomore guard Terryonte Thomas ignited a game-changing run of 16 unanswered points scored by the Lions. A narrow 34-31 lead two minutes into the half quickly grew to 19 points (50-31) for the visitors during a three-minute stretch that was capped by Robert Davis Jr.'s banked 3-pointer at the 15:09 mark.
The visitors maintained their twin-digit lead for a majority of the second half until Meridian's Kylan Hamilton drilled a trio of treys to make it a seven-point contest (71-64) with three minutes still left to play. The Lions weathered MCC's late rally to pull away with the 12-point road victory to improve to 7-4 on the year and extend their current winning streak to four consecutive games. The triumph also kept fourth-year EMCC head coach Billy Begley unbeaten (8-0) against Meridian during his head coaching career. The East Mississippi men are 20-2 against the Eagles dating back to the 2007-08 campaign.
Cox paced all scorers with a season-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. The Ripley product also tied for team rebounding honors with eight, including five offensive boards, and had three steals. Davis, out of Clinton, finished with a career-high 21 points on the strength of 4-of-5 accuracy from beyond the three-point arc. Thomas and Darrious Agnew followed with 14 and 10 points, respectively, for the winners.
The Meridian men were led by Hamilton's 15 points.
East Mississippi's basketball teams will close out non-division action by playing host to the Warriors of East Central Community College on Tuesday (Jan. 8). A 5:30 p.m. women's game will precede a 7:30 p.m. men's contest at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum on the Scooba campus.