February 26, 2010 7:55:00 AM
SCOOBA -- In a classic championship contest between regular-season division champions, the No. 12 East Mississippi Community College men''s basketball team dropped a 61-58 decision to No. 25 Pearl River C.C. on Thursday in the men''s title game of the EMCC-hosted MACJC State Basketball Tournament at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum.
After EMCC held a 30-27 halftime lead, the teams battled through 11 lead changes and four ties in the second half before PRCC went on top for good with about four minutes left in the contest. With PRCC leading 59-56 with a little more than a minute remaining, the Lions had a chance to tie or to reclaim the lead down the stretch. Instead, a pair of misses at the line, a contested attempt from close range failed, and a couple of missed 3-pointers in the final minute of play cost EMCC.
Even after Kegan Houston made it a five-point game with two free throws with 15 seconds left, EMCC still had a chance to send the contest into overtime. Following EMCC freshman Donovan Walker''s two made free throws, PRCC''s Emil Jones missed two free throws with eight ticks left. The Lions'' CoCo Ware grabbed the errant second charity toss and advanced the ball to freshman Deonte Alexander, whose potential game-tying 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim at the final buzzer.
South Division champion PRCC (23-4) earned its 17th consecutive victory and its first men''s basketball title since 2003-04.
The Lions (23-5) were looking for their first gold ball in men''s hoops competition since 1932-33. EMCC''s 2009-10 MACJC North Division regular-season title marks the school''s first men''s crown since the Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges went to divisional play in 1970.
Ware, a preseason NJCAA All-American from Starkville, led a quartet of double-figure EMCC scorers with 17 points, while Alexander finished with 11. Off the bench, the Lions received 13 and 12 points, respectively, from Richard Dixon and Walker.
Kenderek Washington had a game-high 19 points to pace PRCC.
EMCC and PRCC will begin men''s competition Tuesday at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton.
Head coach Sharon Thompson and the EMCC Lady Lions (14-12) will tip off regional competition Monday.
Regional men''s and women''s brackets will be finalized today.
The EMCC women are the reigning NJCAA Region 23 champions.
In the women''s MACJC state championship game played Thursday in Scooba, Jones County defended its state title with a 72-62 upset victory against previously unbeaten and No. 3 Copiah-Lincoln. JCJC also knocked off Co-Lin in last year''s state title game in Ellisville.