POPLARVILLE, MS (WLOX) - In their 110 years of existence, Pearl River Community College has found most of their athletic success in basketball. Despite the banners that hang in the gym, the Wildcats have never won a regional championship until now.
The culmination of a three-day grind in Clinton, MS resulted in rewriting the record books once again. After winning 16 state titles, the most in school history, PRCC clinched a first with a 57-52 victory over Holmes Community College for the program’s first Region 23 championship.
“This is all we’ve been working towards since last year and everything we done been through this year you wouldn’t believe it," Pearl River sophomore guard Jonas James III told WLOX. It means a lot to us. We had to do it for coach.”
“We were just excited to finally get it done because we’ve worked hard and we’ve talked a lot about it, " Chris Oney, third-year Pearl River head coach said. It was something that was time, a streak that was definitely time to come to an end.”
Averaging 84 points per game, the Wildcats’ offense has been the main attraction this season, but their defense has carried them down the stretch.
“I feel like our defense is definitely underrated," Brandon Rachal, Pearl River sophomore & LSU transfer guard, told WLOX. I don’t think people give us enough credit for how hard we play on defense. It’s hard for teams to get 70 points on us.”
Heading into their first NJCAA Tournament, PRCC was selected as the 11th seed in the 24-team single-elimination contest. Despite such a high seeding, the Wildcats have a chip on their shoulder.
“The way that people talk about other schools and the way they talk about us, you know we were the only undefeated team in the country for awhile and we still could barely crack the Top 10 in the country," Rachal said. That just showed me a lot that Mississippi we’ve got to earn our respect.”
The Wildcats aren’t just representing Pearl River, but now the entire state of Mississippi as they enter uncharted territory against the country’s best.
“We’re going to be a tough out for whoever we play," Oney told WLOX. Why not us? Whose to say that we can’t go down there and win our next four games and come back home with the ultimate prize which is a national championship.”
Pearl River will make it’s NJCAA Tournament debut Tuesday (March 19, 2019) against Williston State at noon in Hutchinson, Kansas.