By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
The Pearl River Central boys made basketball history Wednesday night, and did it, in of all places, arch-rival Picayune’s gym.
The Blue Devils avenged two close losses in the regular season to the Maroon Tide, and nipped Picayune 57-52 in the opening round of the Division 8-5A Tournament at Kelly Wise Gym.
The win assured PRC of its first ever state playoff berth in boys basketball in school history. It was also the first win for PRC over Picayune in boys basketball in 13 years, and one of the only wins ever for PRC in Picayune’s gym.
Seth McCoy nailed a 3-pointer from deep in the corner with 50 seconds left to put PRC on top for good at 52-50. After the Blue Devils forced a turnover, McCoy fed Ashton Woodson for a lay-up to seal the win with 18 seconds to play.
“I thought both times we played them this year that we beat ourselves,” first year PRC head coach Ronnie Bowens said. “Tonight I thought we played our game and did what we wanted to do coming in to the game. You have to give the kids all of the credit.”
Picayune led slightly throughout most of the first three quarters, before PRC’s Drew Cruz hit a 3-pointer with five minutes to play to put the Blue Devils up 45-43.
Picayune’s Sullivan Bell was called for a technical foul, and Dennan Seal then hit a pair of free throws for PRC as well as scoring on a lay-up on the ensuing possession to put the Blue Devils up 49-43 with three minutes left.
But The Maroon Tide fought back, scoring seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Tommy Nuccio and a 12-foot jumper by Shemar Williams that made it 50-49 Tide with 1:09 to go.
The Blue Devils, however, moved the ball down the court and after a few pin-point passes McCoy launched his historic shot that swished through the net.
“I didn’t want to blow it up to much because they hadn’t beaten Picayune in so long and I didn’t want them to get tight,” Bowens added. “I’m sure they knew what was on the line. They responded.”
Picayune’s Donovan Rice tallied seven points in the first quarter, and the Tide led 15-11 entering the second stanza.
Bell tallied consecutive baskets inside the paint, and Picayune led by as much as nine, at 27-18, just before halftime.
But Woodson scored `11 points in the third frame, including a trio of thunderous slam dunks, leading the Blue Devils back and setting the stage for the climactic ending.
Woodson paced PRC with a game high 26 points, while Seal added 11 points and seven assists.
Williams scored 18 to lead Picayune, and Eric Peyton chipped in 14 points. Rice added 11 points in the losing cause.
PRC will now face West Harrison in the championship game on Friday night at 7:30. The Blue Devils are 14-13 on the season.
Picayune ends the season at 19-8.
In the first boys game of the day, top-seed West Harrison slammed Long Beach 78-46. Harvey Smart scored a game high 13 for the Hurricanes, while Devhan England led the Bearcats with nine.