The Meridian Star
To the surprise of a packed Graham Gymnasium, five-star forward Devonta Pollard came off the bench for East Mississippi Community College in the Lion's season opener Thursday night. Other than that, the former Kemper County High School standout came as advertised, helping EMCC to an 82-76 win over Meridian Community College.
Pollard scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots as EMCC finished on a 17-4 run to beat the Eagles.
“It feels good to know I could have had this taken away from me, but God gave me another chance,” Pollard said. “I just trying to do what I can do to take advantage of that.”
Pollard, who transferred to EMCC from the University of Alabama after he was arrested in June under the charge of conspiracy to commit a kidnapping, gathered plenty of attention before the game. The 6-foot-8 forward did not disappoint either bringing the Meridian crowd to its feet by slamming home a one-handed alley-oop early in the first half.
EMCC took a 40-35 lead into halftime. But, after turnovers and foul trouble in the second half, the Lions found themselves trailing the Eagles 72-65 with just over 5:00 left in regulation.
“We just told each other to calm down and keep your poise,” Pollard said. “Everybody has been playing with each other for a while, so we just had to come together as a team and keep our composure.”
From there, the Lions' resilience was on display. After a bucket from former Meridian High School Wildcat Dennis Miles cut the lead to five, Pollard earned a trip to the line and sunk two free-throws to bring the score to 72-69.
Another former Wildcat, Antonio Finley, handled the rest on the Lions' next possession, nailing a 3-pointer to even the game.
Sophomore guards Avery Woodson and Nick Giles helped put the game away late, driving into the lane on back-to-back possessions to lead the Lions to victory. Woodson finished the game with 10 points while Giles had four points to go with a team-high nine assists. Mack Foster, 12 points, and Davon Ester, 11 points, also had big games for EMCC.
“It’s about getting better,” EMCC head coach Mark White said. “We have to get better for our next games. Nobody needs a leader when you’re kicking somebody’s butt. You see your true character when times are tough.”
MCC women rally back to remain perfect
Forward Miaya Crowder lead the Lady Eagles with 32 points as Meridian Community College took down East Mississippi Community College, 57-52, in comeback fashion on Thursday night.
After trailing EMCC, 35-23, at the half, MCC rallied behind a strong defense that forced 17 turnovers and caused the visiting Lions to shoot just 6-of-28 in the second half. Crowder, Kristen Sampson and Victoria Stewart sustained a 24-9 run to finish the game as MCC (3-0) handed EMCC (2-1) its first loss of the season.
“Defense wins championships,” MCC head coach Jocelyn McGilberry said. “A little poise and a little D made a difference in this game.”