Wildcats fall to the Bobcats once morePublished 7:00am Tuesday, March 11, 2014
CLINTON — The third time was not the charm for Pearl River Community College Saturday night.
Arch-rival Jones County dispatched the Wildcats 80-67 in the Region 23 men’s championship game here at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College.
Both teams were vying for their first ever spot in the juco National Tournament, that takes place later this month in Hutchinson, Kan.
It will be the Bobcats who will take the historic trip, however, after they knocked off the arch-rival Wildcats for the third time in three meetings this season.
“Man, what a feeling this is,” second year JCJC head coach Jay Ladner said. “Pearl River is a very good team, we were just a little bit better.”
The Bobcats enter the national event at 23-5. Their seeding and tournament bracket will be released on Tuesday afternoon. The tournament is a 24-team, single-elimination event.
Pearl River ends the year at 18-8.
JCJC placed five players in double figures, as they triumphed in the “Catfight for Kansas.”
Leroy “Truck” Fludd led the way with 20 points, while Thaddeus “Pop” Hall added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Johnny Zuppardo had 16 points and five steals, Leo Garrett had 14 – including four 3-pointers – and Bryce Jones had 10 points, eight assists and six steals.
Fludd and Zuppardo were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Zuppardo, who had the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime at the buzzer to beat East Mississippi 73-72 in the semifinals on Friday, opened the game with a trey and the Bobcats never looked back.
A layup by Hall gave JCJC a 13-4 lead with 14:42 left and a Zuppardo bucket off a CJ White assist gave the Bobcats a 26-12 lead with 7:15 left in the first half.
The Wildcats would rally and cut the lead to 32-31 at halftime when Kaven Bernard scored at the buzzer. But that’s as close as Pearl River would get the rest of the game.
Hall hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and Garrett’s fourth 3-pointer gave the Bobcats a 48-37 lead with 15:12 remaining.
JCJC would take its biggest lead of the game at 61-45 with 7:48 to play when Hall hit two free throws. Pearl River’s final rally would bring them to within 63-55 with 3:54 showing when Quintarius Porter made a free throw.
But White would score on the other end to make it 65-55 with 3:40 to play and Pearl River would not get within single digits the rest of the way.
Bernard had 18 points to the lead the Wildcats, while Jeremy Hollimon added 16, Porter had 14 and DeAngelo Coleman had 12. Bernard had nine rebounds and Coleman had five assists.
Former Pearl River Central standout Ashton Woodson is a member of the Bobcats team.
Baton Rouge Community College (La.) defeated Southwest 68-57 for the women’s Region 23 title. Both teams will advance to the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Tournament March 17-22 in Salina, Kan.
Former Picayune High standout Tee Myers is a member of the Southwest team, meaning that Pearl River County will be well represented in the national tourney.