PERKINSTON, MS - Tuesday’s rivalry meeting at Gulf Coast’s Weathers/Wentzell Center featured a clash of two styles, the defensive Bulldogs and No. 14 Pearl River with its wide-open attack.
At least Tuesday, the undefeated Wildcats disproved the old adage that defense wins by breaking the host's resistance to the tune of a 73-63 victory.
With the win, PRCC (14-0 overall, 5-0 MACJC) remains the only undefeated Division I program.
Gulf Coast (12-2, 4-1) entered the rivalry game with the nation's top scoring defense, holding opponents to 59.6 points per game. The Wildcats blew through the average mid-way through the second half — which was important to head coach Chris Oney.
"We got it figured out," PRCC coach Chris Oney said. "We have this deal on the road where the first team to 60 wins. Early on we can't get frustrated if the score is 20-8 or 20-0. When we look up there and see we still have a chance to beat them to 60 we just have to figure it out. I thought tonight we hung in there and shuffled some lineups to figure out who was going to help us get into that groove.
"In the end, we beat them to 60."
Gulf Coast played tough defensively early on, collapsing anytime Pearl River ventured into the post. The Wildcats forced MGCCC into early foul trouble, however, and with the Bulldogs handcuffed, Pearl River was allowed to get out and take the attack to its rival.
"I don't think we came ready for the fight. We got ready once we got into it — we found out pretty fast — but we didn't waver," Oney said, highlighting the fact that on any given night a new Wildcat steps up to lead the charge. "It makes it difficult for the other team to recognize what they're in for. It was obvious to see they were going to keep us out of the paint. It was obvious to see early.
OFF AND RUNNING
Pearl River scored the game's first five points but soon found itself in an 11-8 hole that stretched to 20-8. The Wildcats began chipping away at Gulf Coast's advantage and actually regained the lead with less than a second remaining when a Bulldog was called for goaltending on a Jonas James III (Jackson; Murrah) layup.
Cedric Brim Jr. (Tupelo; Shannon) opened the second half with two free throws to push PRCC ahead 31-28. The Bulldogs attempted to make a late run, pulling within eight points at 68-60, but the Wildcats reeled off five unanswered to extinguish any hope of an upset by the home team.
Kelvin Allen (Olive Branch) played a key role in PRCC's second half success, scoring 9 of his 14 points in the final 20 minutes.
"I'm just so proud of Kelvin Allen. I really am," Oney said. "To be in these circumstances, on this kind of team and in this kind of game where every possession matters, he didn't play like a freshman; he played like a sophomore."
Brim led PRCC with 21 points. LSU transfer Brandon Rachal (Natchitoches, La; Natchitoches Central) scored 11 points, while James added 10. Chris Agbo (Jos, Nigeria) was just behind the leaders with eight points.
Tuesday's win got chippy at times, with officials calling a technical on a Bulldog after he entered PRCC's huddle following the halftime buzzer, and wasn't always the prettiest brand of basketball. But Oney knows all too well that any rivalry win in the MACJC is a good one — regardless of how the game unfolds.
"We can talk about all the analytics all we want to but in the end it's Gulf Coast-Pearl River," he said. "No matter what's at stake it's going to be a war."