SCOOBA, Miss. – The East Mississippi Community College basketball teams moved into first-place ties in their respective MACJC North Division standings with a sweep of Itawamba Thursday night at EMCC’s Keyes T. Currie Coliseum. The Lady Lions claimed their sixth consecutive win with an 80-61 victory over ICC, while the EMCC men capped the evening with an 81-73 triumph over the Indians.
Coach Sharon Thompson’s 16-4 Lady Lions averaged their lone divisional loss of the year – a 77-71 setback last month at ICC – by improving to 8-1 in North Division play with Thursday’s 19-point home win over the Lady Indians, who entered the game unbeaten in league action. Coach Mark White’s 13-7 Lions completed their regular-season sweep of Itawamba with the eight-point home victory to match the Indians at 6-3 in divisional play.
In Thursday’s women’s contest, East Mississippi used a 9-0 spurt early in the contest to grab the lead and establish control over visiting ICC. With Georgia State signee Angelique Burtts (14 points) and former Southeast Lauderdale standout Martika Hull (10) combining for 24 first-half points, the Lady Lions built a 40-31 halftime advantage.
The Lady Indians cut the deficit to a basket (40-38) by scoring the first seven points of the second stanza. Playing without starting point guard Kottia White, who bruised her tailbone in the opening half, Burtts ignited a 15-3 EMCC run to put the home team on top by 13 points (58-45) midway through the half. The Lady Lions maintained their double-digit cushion for the remainder of the game en route to cruising to their 12th victory in their last 14 decisions.
Burtts finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, while Hull registered her fifth double-double of the season with 16 points on 7-of-11 field-goal accuracy and 14 rebounds.
Falling to 18-5 overall and 8-1 in the division, Itawamba was led by Sanqueeta Meardith’s 14 points, though she was limited to 5-of-16 shooting from the field and committed seven turnovers.
During Thursday’s nightcap in front of a near-capacity crowd on the Scooba campus, the Lions gained slight separation late in the opening period with Coco Ware’s 16 first-half points helping stake the home team to a 38-34 halftime lead. Clinging to the lead throughout the second half, EMCC increased the margin to eight points (62-54) on a Rob Elam three-point play with 7:18 remaining.
However, ICC would cut the deficit to a single point (67-66) for the second time in the half when Jason Marks scored inside with 3:55 left in the contest. Elam followed with two more free throws on his way to a perfect 11-of-11 night from the stripe to give EMCC some needed breathing room. With a minute left to play, Starkville’s Woodie Howard scored on a baseline drive to put the Lions up by five points (74-69). Moments later, EMCC benefitted from an intentional foul called on Itawamba’s Marks. Coming off a career-high, 26-point night earlier in the week against Coahoma, sophomore point guard Cataurius Taylor all but sealed the victory by drilling four straight charity tosses after being saddled with four fouls for most of the closing period.
Despite cooling off over the final 20 minutes, Ware finished with a game-best 22 points. The Starkville High School product added eight rebounds and four steals for the Lions. Elam’s flawless effort from the line contributed to his season-high 15 points, while Howard totaled 14 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks in the winning effort.
Dropping to 16-6 overall and 6-3 in North Division play, Itawamba was led by Theron Jenkins with 15 points. Marks followed with 14 points and Gary Dixon added a dozen points for the visitors.
The East Mississippi basketball teams will begin a stretch of three straight road games by traveling to Pearl River for a non-division doubleheader Monday night (Feb. 9) in Poplarville. EMCC will then head to Mississippi Delta and Holmes for divisional road contests on Feb. 12 and 16, respectively, before closing out the regular season by playing host to Northeast Mississippi on Feb. 19.