The East Mississippi basketball teams swept Northeast Mississippi Thursday night in their regular-season finale played at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum. The Lady Lions claimed their 10th straight win and earned the No. 1 North Division seed in next week’s MACJC State Tournament with a 76-61 victory, while the EMCC men cruised to an 81-53 triumph over the visiting Tigers.
In reaching the 20-win mark for the first time since the 1992-93 EMCC women went 21-6 overall and 12-0 in North Division play, coach Sharon Thompson’s 20-4 Lady Lions finished the 2008-09 regular season with an 11-1 division mark to tie with Itawamba for the North’s top spot. However, EMCC earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s MACJC State Tournament by winning the point differential tie-breaker. ICC claimed a 77-71 home win over the Lady Lions on Jan. 12 in Fulton, but East Mississippi avenged the six-point loss by recording an 80-61 home victory over the Lady Indians on Feb. 5.
In Thursday’s regular-season closer, the EMCC women mounted a 14-point, first-half margin before heading into intermission with a 44-37 halftime lead. The Lady Lions quickly restored their double-digit advantage after the break and increased their cushion to as many as 19 points before settling for the 15-point victory.
Sophomore forward Angelique Burtts of Conyers, Ga., led the way with 18 points for East Mississippi. The Georgia State signee also added seven assists, six steals and five rebounds. Jasmine Abrams of Columbus registered her third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Javitia Eades of Kemper County added 11 points for the winners.
With their most wins since the 1999-2000 campaign, coach Mark White’s 15-9 Lions ended the regular season tied with Holmes for second place in the North Division standings with identical 8-4 divisional marks. However, the Bulldogs garnered the No. 2 seed in next week’s MACJC State Tournament by virtue of their 2008-09 regular-season sweep over the Lions.
During Thursday’s nightcap on the Scooba campus, the EMCC men grabbed early control of the contest and maintained a 44-33 halftime advantage. The Lions never looked back after the break and steadily built the margin to as many as 33 points (78-45) by the 3:40 mark on a 3-pointer by backup guard Sergio Townsel of Columbus. EMCC’s convincing 28-point triumph avenged the team’s 60-58 road setback last month in Booneville.
Sophomore Woodie Howard of Starkville hit his first seven field goals of the night en route to a team-high, 19-point performance. Fellow Starkville native Coco Ware tallied 12 of his 14 points in the opening half, while former Caledonia High School standout Darian Donald totaled all of his 10 points and each of his 10 rebounds in the second stanza to record his fourth double-double of the season. Sophomore playmaker Cataurius Taylor of Memphis added a dozen points for the winners.
With women’s action set for Monday and the men’s first-round games being held Tuesday, next week’s MACJC State Tournament will be hosted by Jones County Junior College in Ellisville. All tournament games during the four-day event (Feb. 23-26) will be played at JCJC’s Bobcat Gymnasium.
The top-seeded EMCC Lady Lions of the North Division will take on fourth-seeded Southwest Mississippi of the South Division in Monday’s opening women’s game at noon. In Tuesday’s first-round men’s action, the third-seeded Lions will meet No. 2 seed Mississippi Gulf Coast of the South Division at 2 p.m.
Women’s semifinals are set for noon and 5 p.m., while the men’s semifinals are slated for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Thursday’s championship contests will be played at 6 p.m. (women) and 8 p.m. (men).
Admission for the MACJC State Basketball Tournament will be $5 per day or $15 for a tournament pass. Children 5 years of age and younger will be admitted free of charge.
In addition, all 14 games of the Jones County-hosted state tournament will be televised at www.jcjc.tv. Fans will also be able to access the site by visiting www.jcjc.edu and clicking on the link.