March 11, 2013 10:29:37 AM
CLINTON -- A fourth consecutive NJCAA Region 23 championship came in the blink of an eye for the East Mississippi Community College men's basketball team.
A dramatic six-point turnaround in the final 10 seconds Saturday night lifted EMCC to a 66-62 victory against Northwest Mississippi C.C. in the title game at Mississippi College's A.E. Wood Coliseum.
The victory secures EMCC (20-7) a spot in the expanded 24-team field for the NJCAA Division I tournament 24-team field on March 18-23 at the at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan. The field will include 16 district champions as automatic qualifiers, four Zone B qualifiers (from Districts 2, 7, 10, and 14), and four at-large selections. The single-elimination tournament bracket will be announced today.
EMCC is the first four-time NJCAA Region 23 men's basketball champion since NMCC accomplished the feat from 2003-06.
Trailing 61-58 when Jarekious Bradley was fouled with 27 seconds remaining, EMCC's All-America candidate calmly sank both free throws to make it a one-point game. Following a Northwest timeout, Charles Eaton hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Rangers a 62-60 lead.
On EMCC's next possession, sophomore Trey Brown drilled his lone 3-pointer of the game to account for the 16th lead change. Freshman point guard Nick Giles then intercepted the inbounds pass and was fouled. The former Kemper County High School standout nailed both free throws with 8.3 seconds left to give the Lions a 65-62 lead.
After EMCC used its final timeout, NMCC's D.J. Biggs was fouled before he could attempt a 3-pointer. Biggs misfired on both free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining, and Brown was sent to the line after collecting the rebound. The Brandon native made it a two-possession game and sealed the victory by connecting on the second free throw.
The teams stayed within six points of each other the whole game. EMCC had the biggest lead, 6-0 to start the game.
After the teams were tied at 26 at halftime, the Rangers scored the first five points to open the second half. Bradley, who missed six of his seven first-half attempts from the field, connected on consecutive 3-pointers to give the Lions the lead. The Rangers answered with a 10-4 run in the next five minutes to take a 41-36 lead with 11 minutes, 5 seconds to go mark on DeMarcus McVay's three-point play. Micah Walker followed with back-to-back 3-points and a two-point basket following a Northwest turnover to give EMCC a 44-41 advantage midway through the half.
NMCC responded with six-straight points to turn a 58-55 deficit into a 61-58 lead with 1:28 remaining. A scoreless minute set up the finish.
Bradley, the NJCAA's sixth-leading scorer, led EMCC with 14 points and nine rebounds. Brown, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, joined Bradley on the all-tournament team.
All-tournament selections Domonique Harris and Eaton had 15 and 13 points, respectively, to lead NMCC, which finished 19-8.