POPLARVILLE, MS (PRCC) - No. 20 Pearl River put on a show Thursday in its 98-70 season opener at White Coliseum.
The Wildcats (1-0) jumped out to a commanding early lead, and while the Dolphins (0-1) clawed back into the contest, PRCC turned it on when they needed to and pulled away.
“I think it went exactly the way it should have gone. There were some things we did really well, and then some things we need to clean up,” PRCC coach Chris Oney said. “I was proud of how we started and when we settled down I saw a glimpse of the team we can be.”
Early in the game, fans saw a glimpse of what Oney hopes is a regular occurrence.
Ahead 11-2, LSU transfer Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La.; Natchitoches-Central) forced a turnover in PRCC’s end and quickly flipped the ball out to Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon). The speedy guard broke down the left wing before lofting a pass toward the rim for the crashing Eric Thornton Jr. (Canton; Murrah) to slam home.
“That was awesome to see. I wish we could have done it about 10 more times,” Oney said. “I want to play fast. Playing fast early on, I understand we have to live with mistakes. It’s no different from last year.
“Once we get used to playing together, I think we’ll head in the right direction.”
Oney has lauded his team’s depth, but when his substitutions coincided with the Dolphins easing back into the game. By halftime, PRCC held just a 37-26 advantage.
“We have to do better when I sub. Those guys have to come in with the same type of intensity to build on the lead instead of become stagnant,” Oney said. “We have guys who were highly thought of before they got here and now they’re going to have to come off the bench.”
A 17-4 run early in the second half saw PRCC nearly double-up Delgado at 60-33 and the rout was on from there.
“It’s a work in progress. We’re not going to look like a finished product the first night out of the gate,” Oney said. “I thought we played hard. We had balanced scoring up and down the book. We shared the ball.”
Brim led the PRCC attack with 18 points. Louisiana-Monroe commit Langston Powell (West Monroe, La.) added 14 points with five rebounds.
Chris Agbo (Jos, Nigeria) had a team-high nine rebounds with 13 points. Rachal rounded out PRCC’s double-digit scorers with 11 points along with six assists and six rebounds. Jonas James III led the Wildcats with seven assists.
Although he was down the scoring sheet with six points, Oney liked what he saw from Fred Thompson (Biloxi). The redshirt freshman sat out last year as he recovered from knee surgery, but looked like his old self in the second half, draining 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
“Fred just needs to see a few go down, which tonight he saw a few go down,” Oney said. “Once that happens in live action, he can really be a weapon.”