SENATOBIA – East Mississippi Community College's basketball winning streaks jointly improved to four consecutive games, as the EMCC men's and women's teams swept Northwest Mississippi on the road during Monday night MACJC North Division action played at Howard Coliseum. The visiting Lady Lions overcame an early double-digit deficit to claim a 58-48 victory, while the Lions men recovered from a six-point halftime hole to earn a 74-67 nightcap win over the Rangers.
In the women's opener, the Lady Rangers jumped out to a 15-3 lead with Ariel Tunstall and Kayla Bradley combining for 13 of Northwest's 15 first-quarter points. Following Aamiya Rush's pair of free throws with less than a minute left in the quarter, Brianna Page's 3-pointer at the buzzer cut the deficit to 15-8 to give the visitors some needed momentum.
The Lady Lions continued to battle back during the second quarter. Consecutive steals and resulting scores by Alaysha Jennings aided the comeback midway through the period. Rush's three-point basket later capped a 10-2 run that turned a five-point deficit into a 26-23 EMCC lead at the intermission.
The third quarter featured four lead changes and three ties before Page's second 3-pointer of the game put the visitors on top (46-43) for good. After Emily Evans' basket gave EMCC a 48-44 lead at the end of the quarter, Tye Metcalf's made trey off an inbounds play extended the lead to eight points (53-45) early in the final period.
Northwest would not get any closer than five points the rest of the way, as the Lady Lions scored the game's last five points at the charity stripe to secure their first season series sweep over the Lady Rangers since the 2013-14 season.
With their fourth consecutive win on the year, Coach Sharon Thompson's EMCC Lady Lions improved to 10-11 overall and 7-3 in division play to claim current sole possession of second place in the MACJC North Division women's standings behind Itawamba.
Once again for the EMCC women, Page was instrumental in victory by registering her second straight double-double with game-high totals of 20 points and 13 rebounds. Metcalf followed close behind by scoring 13 of her 19 points in the second half for the winners.
Falling to 7-13 overall and 2-8 within the division, the Lady Rangers were led by Tunstall's 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
During the men's nightcap, Terryonte Thomas' back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Lions an 18-13 advantage midway through the first half. Following three subsequent deadlocks, Northwest ended the half on a 10-2 run to give the home team a 34-28 halftime advantage.
The difference in the contest was the standout second-half play of EMCC sophomore guards Dewayne Cox and Robert Davis Jr., who combined for 35 second-half points on collective 11-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 accuracy from beyond the three-point arc. As a team following the break, the Lions shot 58 percent (15-of-26 FGs) from the field, including 5-of-9 treys (56%), after shooting just 24 percent from the field and 20 percent from the arc through the opening 20 minutes of play.
Following halftime, Cox and Davis drilled consecutive treys to cap a 15-4 run and give EMCC a 43-38 lead early in the second stanza. Moments later Cox connected on back-to-back triples himself to increase the margin to eight points (49-41) with 12 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Rangers regrouped to briefly claim back the lead on a couple of occasions during a short stretch late in the half when the lead changed hands four times. The stalemate was snapped when Thomas hit a timely 3-pointer and Davis followed with a left-hand layup to put the Lions on top by six points (66-60) with 3:15 remaining in the game.
Davis later scored on consecutive drives to the basket down the stretch to increase EMCC's lead to 70-63. A 3-pointer by NWCC's Alec Rayburn and a free throw by Kendrick Fountain then made it a one-possession game with 40 seconds left on the game clock. Appropriately enough, it was Cox who basically sealed the Lions' first season series sweep over Northwest since the 2012-13 season by hitting a pair of free throws with 33 ticks remaining to cap his 19-point, second-half performance.
Winners of seven of their last eight games, Coach Billy Begley's 14-7 EMCC Lions improved to 8-2 in MACJC North Division play to currently stand alone atop the men's standings ahead of idle Northeast Mississippi.
With his seventh career 20-point outing and one point shy of his career-best 25 points coming against Tallahassee last season, Cox paced all scorers with 24 points against Northwest. Davis followed by scoring all but two of his 18 points in the second half. Thomas added 15 points to the winning effort, while the Starkville tandem of Markedric Bell and Darrious Agnew controlled the boards for the Lions with 15 and 12 rebounds, respectively.
Dropping to 11-9 overall and 4-6 within the division, the Northwest Rangers were led by Fountain's double-double effort of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Rayburn and Jitaurious Gordon followed with 16 points apiece.
The East Mississippi basketball teams will wind up the regular season next week by playing host to the Itawamba Indians on Monday and then traveling to Booneville to take on the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi on Thursday. Monday's EMCC-ICC hoops doubleheader will consist of a 5:30 p.m. women's game followed by a 7:30 p.m. men's contest at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum on the Scooba campus.