POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WLOX) - Just a week ago, the undefeated Pearl River men’s basketball team (28-0) were chosen as the number one seed in the NJCAA Tournament. The Wildcats were hoping to be the first team to win it all with an unblemished record since South Plains did it back in 2012.
“I just feel like no team in the country can stop what we’re about to do," sophomore forward Cameron Smith told WLOX who was making his second straight appearance in the national tournament since coming to Pearl River.
"We’re about to make history, we’re going 32-0. We’ve got to win four more games and we’re going to do it.”
Four more games. That is what separated Pearl River men’s basketball from potentially adding a national title to an already historic year. A faceless opponent known as the Coronavirus forced the NJCAA to cancel their tournament, effectively ending the Wildcats season.
“I love to compete just as much as anybody, but I do think it was the right decision," head coach Chris Oney said. "Safety is most important and it’s just one of those things that life threw in front of us, so we’ve got to deal with it and find the good out of it.”
In 28 games, the Wildcats came out as the victor every time and even though their season came to an unfortunate end, they find peace knowing that it ended with a 'W'.
“We’re not going to focus too much on what could’ve happen or what might’ve happen, we’re going to talk more about what did happen," Oney told WLOX.
"I think the things that we were able to achieve and experience far outweigh the one week we had left.”
The 2019-20 PRCC squad was unlike any that came before them. They won the MACJC outright, clinched the program’s second straight Region 23 championship and only trailed at halftime twice all season as the country’s lone unbeaten team in division one junior college basketball. Sadly, they won’t be able to finish what they started.
“This group has been a group that hopefully I can coach groups like this the rest of my time here," Oney said. "We were peaking to be honest.”
With their perfect record, a case can be made that Pearl River are the 2019-20 NJCAA national champs. If the NJCAA approves, given the circumstances, the Wildcats are all for it.
“I think it would bring some kind of happy closure to this all," Oney said.
"What are we going to do? Not have a national champion this year? I think that it’s something that should become reality.”
“We did all we could do this season, erasing every obstacle in front of us," sophomore guard and Southern Miss commit, Tae Hardy, told WLOX.
"I feel like it would be pretty cool if they let us claim the championship, but then again, we did all we could do this season.”