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EMCC Lions advance to fourth straight NJCAA Region 23 hoops final with 68-60 win over Baton Rouge in Clinton
 March 8, 2013

CLINTON – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College earned an opportunity to contend for a fourth consecutive regional basketball championship by claiming a 68-60 victory over Baton Rouge Community College during Friday’s semifinals of the NJCAA Region 23 Basketball Tournament being played at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.

Avenging a pair of early-season losses to BRCC with Friday’s eight-point victory, the 19-7 EMCC Lions will go after win No. 20 and, more importantly, a fourth straight regional hoops championship by taking on division foe Northwest Mississippi Community College in Saturday night’s title tilt.  Looking for their first regional men’s basketball championship since 2006, the 19-7 Northwest Rangers knocked off 20th-ranked and MACJC State Champion Pearl River Community College, 89-81, in Friday’s other men’s semifinal.

The winner of the 8 p.m. NJCAA Region 23 men’s championship contest will earn an automatic berth to the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship to be played March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kan.  EMCC is bidding to become the first school since Northwest Mississippi (2003-06) to collect four consecutive men’s basketball regional crowns.

Saturday’s contest will mark the rubber match between this year’s top two men’s basketball teams in the MACJC’s North Division.  EMCC clinched its fourth straight regular-season division crown by posting an 87-64 win over Northwest last month in Scooba.  A month earlier in Senatobia, the Rangers handed the Lions their first division loss of the season by way of a 79-67 final.

Having previously dropped single-digit decisions to Baton Rouge back in November and December in Scooba (79-76 in OT) and Baton Rouge (70-62), respectively, the Lions used an 11-0 run to grab an early advantage in this year’s third meeting.  A nip and tuck opening 20 minutes of play resulted in EMCC holding onto a slim 31-29 halftime lead.

As they did in Wednesday’s 72-58 quarterfinal-round triumph over Mississippi Delta Community College, the Lions turned up the defensive pressure full court and reeled off seven unanswered points to extend the margin to 11 points (49-38) with 12:23 remaining in the contest.  However, six straight subsequent points by the Bears cut the deficit to five points (49-44).

With BRCC in second-half foul trouble, the Lions used trips to the charity stripe to build their lead back up to nine points (62-53) with 3:39 left in regulation.  That margin was quickly cut to just four points on a pair of Jeffrey Walker free throws and a 3-pointer by Darrice Whitley.

Following empty possessions by both teams, EMCC sophomore forward Micah Walker hit a runner in the lane that was answered by Whitley’s bucket on the other end.  With the Bears forced to foul down the stretch, EMCC All-American candidate Jarekious Bradley was sent to the line on two separate occasions over the final 31 seconds.  The former Memphis East High School product sealed the win by hitting all four attempts to provide the game’s final margin and finish with 22 points.

EMCC’s Walker, from Jonesboro, Ark., finished with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while freshman guard Jacolby Mobley, of Starkville, added nine points – all in the second half – for the winners.

Concluding their season with a 16-14 record, the Bears of Baton Rouge Community College were led by Walker and Whitley with 24 and 20 points, respectively.   

Saturday’s men’s regional championship contest is scheduled to be video-streamed live in HD via EMCC’s Ustream channel, which can be easily accessed through the school’s athletic website, www.EMCCAthletics.com.  With EMCC media director/athletic video coordinator Derek Cody handling play-by-play duties, the live radio broadcast is also slated to be carried on WFCA-FM (107.9) out of French Camp. 



























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