A desperation shot at the buzzer that bounced off the rim was all that kept the East Central Community College Warriors from handing the No. 9 ranked Pearl River Wildcats their first defeat of the season in basketball action Monday, Feb. 4. The ECCC Lady Warriors also fell, losing 61-56 to the PRCC Lady Wildcats at Marvin R. White Coliseum in Poplarville.
It was a big turnaround for the Warriors in the 72-70 loss to the undefeated Wildcats. Pearl River defeated East Central by 33 in Decatur back on Jan. 10.
East Central would battle all night in the rematch, leading by as many as 16-5 in the first half and holding a 33-30 lead at the intermission. The two teams battled back and forth in the second 20 minutes, with East Central tying the game with 13.9 seconds to play thanks to two Roti Ware free throws.
The lead was short lived as Pearl River's Eric Thorton laid in the game-winner moments later. East Central did get a final shot that bounced off the rim. It was another close loss for the Warriors, who now have seven losses by four points or less.
Ware, a sophomore guard from Morton, would lead five East Central players in double figures with 15. Sophomore guard Josh Green out of Harrison Central and freshman guard Nick Preyer (Mobile, Ala., Leflore) had 13 each, and freshman forwards Marcus Bates (Tuscaloosa, Ala, Paul Bryant) and JaQuarius Smith out of Noxubee County had 10 apiece. Ware also had five of the Warriors' 12 steals in the game.
The difference in the game was at the free throw line, where Pearl River hit 19 of 28 attempts, while the Warriors connected on 10 of 13 free shots.
With the loss, the Warriors fell to 8-10 overall and 1-8 in MACJC South Division play. Pearl River improved to 18-0 and 9-0.
In the women's action, the Pearl River Lady Wildcats avenged a 75-67 loss to the Lady Warriors in January. The Lady Wildcats pushed out to as much as a 10-point lead in the first two periods before settling for a 31-23 halftime lead.
Pearl River built a 39-26 lead in the third period, before the Lady Warriors pulled to within three. East Central would get no closer as Pearl River would close the game out hitting four free throws in the final minute to seal the five-point win.
East Central couldn't overcome a poor first half shooting effort, hitting only five field goals and shooting 24 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Sophomore guard Breanna Riley out of Biloxi High School was the only Lady Warrior in double figures with 10 points. Freshman guard Jamaica Almons (Jackson, Murrah) pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
The ECCC Lady Warriors are now 14-4 overall on the season and 5-4 in the league. The PRCC Lady Wildcats improved to 13-5 and 6-3. East Central remains tied for third place in the South Division and the race to get a state tournament berth.
East Central stays on the road to face Copiah-Lincoln in Wesson on Thursday, Feb. 7. Game times are 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The Warriors and Lady Warriors return home Monday, Feb. 11, to face Jones College at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It will be Be Our Guest night for high school students from Winston County who will be admitted free and qualify for door prizes. The 2019 Warrior baseball team will be introduced at halftime of the men's game at Brackeen-Wood Gym in Decatur.