Friday, February 26, 2021

Warriors Defeat Southwest in Thrilling Fashion

With just seven seconds on the clock, freshman Demajion Topps (Winona) drove to the basket and finished off a left-handed layup to put ECCC up by one, 87-86. The Warriors quickly regrouped on defense and got a steal as time expired to seal their first win of the season. The win moves ECCC to 1-8 on the year and drops the Bears to 7-3 and ends a two-game winning streak for Southwest that included a victory over Pearl River.

"We had an advantage in our guard play getting to the basket," said Rahim Lockhart, ECCC's head basketball coach. "The key tonight was that our guys have come in and got after it at practice. We are finding our groove because we've had several different starting lineups this year and working on some things, but in the end, I know the Warriors are going to be a tough team for opponents to deal with."

East Central was on fire in the early goings of the game as they quickly built a nine-point, 13-6, lead. The advantage came from a pair of three-pointers from Devin Carter (Louisville) and another from Tate Ryder (Hattiesburg). Solid free throw shooting from the Bears kept the Warriors from pushing the lead to double digits, but ECCC's offensive production was stellar as they seemed to capitalize on every trip down the floor. With just under eight minutes remaining in the half, a scoring drought caught up to the Warriors and allowed the Bears to chip back and take a brief lead. ECCC responded over the final three minutes and rebuilt their lead to six, 43-37, going into the half.

The second half saw thrilling basketball as the Warriors built up a 10-point advantage early before Southwest hit back and knotted the game at 63-63 with less than nine minutes to play. The game would stay close from that point on as gritty, hard-nosed basketball was played by both squads. ECCC's Topps and David Berry (Mendenhall) made some key free throws in the final minute, but a basket from Southwest's Javius Moore put the Bears on top by one, 86-85. The Warriors had possession with less than 30 seconds on the clock and a Lockhart timeout set up the game-winning basket from Topps.

The Warriors had numerous strong performances on the night with Carter leading the way with 26 points, a career-high. It is Carter's fourth 20-point game in 2021. Darien Newchurch (Jackson) poured in 22 points, the most since a 20-point performance in November of 2019. JaMichael Wilson (Rayville, La.) added 13 points, and Topps finished the night with 12. Rebounding was a key for the Warriors and big-man Timothy McElroy (Dekalb) cleaned the boards as he led both teams with 11 on the night. He also played stellar defense with five blocks. ECCC shot 44 percent from the floor to Southwest's 42 and allowed two fewer turnovers.

ECCC is back at home on Monday, March 1 as the men host Jones College in Brackeen-Wood. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game can be watched live at www.eccclive.com/gold or heard live at WKOZ Crusin 98.3 FM.