Meridian Star

Sports

March 5, 2014

EMCC hoops teams primed for MACJC Region 23 tourney

SCOOBA — As the only school from the MACJC’s North Division ranks to have both teams qualify, the East Mississippi Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for this week’s NJCAA Region 23 Basketball Tournament.

The tournament begins today and lasts through Saturday at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus in Clinton.

With both EMCC basketball teams set to compete in regional play the same year for the first time in three seasons, the MACJC North Division Champion Lady Lions will begin play Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. against MACJC State Tournament runner-up Southwest Mississippi. The four-time reigning NJCAA Region 23 Champion Lions are slated to tip off Thursday at 2 p.m. versus Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The regional semifinals will be contested Friday with the women playing the noon and 2 p.m. games, while the men’s semis are set to take place during the night session at 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday’s 6 p.m. women’s championship game will be followed by the 8 p.m. men’s title tilt.

Making their first regional appearance in three years, head coach Sharon Thompson’s 16-8 EMCC Lady Lions open NJCAA Region 23 tournament play with a Wednesday rematch against Southwest Mississippi. Last Tuesday in Fulton, the South No. 4 seed SMCC Lady Bears claimed a 66-61 first-round MACJC State Tournament win over North No. 1 seed East Mississippi en route to advancing to the championship contest before falling to Jones County.

The winner of Wednesday’s EMCC-SMCC quarterfinal-round women’s game will advance to meet the winner of the LSU Eunice-Pearl River first-round pairing during Friday’s semifinal-round action at 2 p.m. The other side of the women’s bracket features an opening-day matchup between MACJC State Champion Jones County and Copiah-Lincoln at noon on Wednesday, followed at 2 p.m. by the other quarterfinal-round game pitting Meridian and Baton Rouge.  That initial semifinal-round women’s contest is slated for noon on Friday.

The EMCC Lady Lions are making their first regional appearance in Clinton since 2011, when they earned a 67-66 victory over Jones County in the quarterfinals before dropping an 80-72 overtime decision to rival Meridian in the semis. The previous year, the East Mississippi women also knocked off JCJC (71-56) in the quarters prior to falling to Baton Rouge, 76-71, in the semifinals. Back in 2009, Coach Thompson’s Lady Lions bested Northwest Mississippi (47-44 in quarters), Jones County (76-73 in semis) and Copiah-Lincoln (52-43 in finals) to advance to the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship in Salina, Kan.

On the men’s side, head coach Mark White’s 19-6 EMCC Lions are bidding to become the first NJCAA Division I men’s basketball program in more than 40 years to participate in the NJCAA Tournament for five consecutive years.  Southeastern (Iowa) Community College made five straight trips to Hutchinson, Kan., beginning in 1963 through 1967. Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.) and Dodge City (Kan.) had previously accomplished the feat, as had Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College, which holds the all-time NJCAA Division I men’s basketball standard with eight consecutive national tournament appearances during the 1950s (1951-58).

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