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EMCC shocked in OT, 84-82, by Gulf Coast in state hoops tourney opener; Lions now prep for next week's region tourney
 February 27, 2013

POPLARVILLE – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College dropped a heartbreaking 84-82 overtime decision to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College during Tuesday’s opening round of the 2013 MACJC State Basketball Tournament being played at Shivers Gym on the Pearl River Community College campus.

Though eliminated in first-round postseason tournament play for the first time in Mark White’s six-year coaching career at EMCC, the 17-7 Lions have already qualified for next week’s (March 6-9) NJCAA Region 23 Basketball Tournament to be held at Mississippi College in Clinton.  Men’s first-round region tournament action will be played Wednesday at MC’s A.E. Wood Coliseum.  Official region tournament brackets will be released later this week.  The EMCC Lions are three-time reigning NJCAA Region 23 champions and have participated in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., each of the last three years.

Tuesday in Poplarville, the Lions, MACJC North Division regular-season champions for the fourth consecutive year, and the fourth-seeded MGCCC Bulldogs, from the MACJC’s South Division, battled nip and tuck through the opening 20 minutes of play.  EMCC built on its 38-33 halftime lead by outscoring Gulf Coast 12-6 during the first four minutes of the second stanza to take an 11-point (50-39) advantage.

The Lions still held a 58-49 lead eight minutes into the closing period, before Gulf Coast scored 10 unanswered points to inch ahead by a point (59-58) with eight minutes remaining in regulation.  Four subsequent ties over the next four minutes set up the eventful final three minutes of regulation.

Two Jarekious Bradley free throws put EMCC on top 69-68 with 1:19 left in regulation.  On the heels of his blocked shot at the rim on the defensive end, sophomore post player Earnest Hunter completed a three-point play to give the Lions a two-possession lead at 72-68 with 26.5 seconds left on the game clock.  After Gulf Coast’s Chris Bilbo hit one of two free throws to make it 72-69, Lion freshman point guard Nick Giles was sent to the free throw line with 16 ticks remaining to quite possibly seal the victory.  However, the Kemper County High School product misfired on both attempts.  Following the Bulldogs’ final timeout of regulation, MGCCC sophomore guard JaMichael Hawkins shot-faked and then drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.1 ticks left to send the contest into overtime.

Following a couple of lead changes to begin the extra session, EMCC freshman Jacolby Mobley scored on a drive to the basket and followed with a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 79-75 lead.  Gulf Coast’s tandem of Bilbo and Hawkins answered with back-to-back baskets to knot the score at 79-79 with 1:35 remaining.  The teams traded buckets again and the game was tied at 81-81 with 40 seconds left on the game clock.

On EMCC’s next possession, Mobley was fouled and sent to the line with 18.9 seconds left.  After missing the initial attempt, the Starkville native hit the second try to give the Lions a precarious one-point edge.  On Gulf Coast’s subsequent trip down the court, Bilbo was fouled driving to the basket with only 3.4 ticks remaining.  The freshman playmaker calmly converted both charity tosses to put the Bulldogs in front 83-82.  With the Lions having to go the length of the court, Trey Brown’s inbounds pass was intercepted at midcourt by Shelton Willis, who made one of two free throws to wrap up MGCCC’s first-round tournament victory and snap EMCC’s six-game winning streak.       

With four EMCC players in double figures, 18 of Mobley’s team-leading 20 points came following the halftime break.  Bradley and Hunter each followed with identical double-doubles of 19 points and 11 rebounds apiece, while fellow sophomore Micah Walker added 12 points for the Lions.

Improving to 17-7 on the year and advancing to meet Mississippi Delta Community College in Wednesday’s state tourney semifinals at Pearl River, the MGCCC Bulldogs were paced by Hawkins and Bilbo with 31 and 24 points, respectively, in the winning effort. 

All of EMCC's basketball games at next week's NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Clinton are slated to be video-streamed live on the school's Ustream channel at www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-basketball, which can be easily accessed through the school's athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com.  EMCC media director/athletic video coordinator Derek Cody will be on hand to describe all of the play-by-play action throughout the basketball postseason.

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