The Meridian Star
The difficult thing about coaching offense is you just never if the little round ball is going to go in the hole.
Those were the words of East Mississippi Community College head coach Mark White following the Lions' 72-58 win over Gulf Coast in the opening-round of the Region 23 Tournament, Thursday at Mississippi College.
In the first half, that round ball wasn't doing EMCC any favors, as the Lions connected on only 8/27 shots, including a dismal 1/12 from beyond the arch. At the break, No. 2-seeded EMCC trailed Mississippi Delta 31-28 .
“We told our kids at the half, every game is going to be tough,” White said. “Especially in tournaments, it's tough for the higher seed. We told them last year, when we were the No. 1 seed and we were playing No. 8 Jones, we were down 10 in the second half. I just told them to stay with it, don't worry about the shot. I told them to just worry about the defensive end and the intensity.”
In the second half, the Lions did just that, out hustling Mississippi Delta for loose balls and offensive rebounds and tiring out the Trojans on both ends of the court.
More importantly, the open looks EMCC had been missing in the first half began to fall. The Lions shot 16/34 in the second half, including 4/8 from three-point range.
“I think our energy was really, really good in the second half,” White said. “As a coach, you know your energy is always going to be better when you are making shot, that's just the nature of the game.”
One key to the Lions' turnaround was point guard Jacolby Mobley. After going scoreless in the first half, Mobley went off for 12 points after the break.
“The thing about Jacolby that we always tell him is that, he is almost impossible to keep from driving,” White said. “We told him, be aggressive. Get inside, get that going first and things will get going.”
Another player instrumental to win was the Lions' leading scorer, Jarekious Bradley. The star forward came into the game shooting .535 percent from the field. However, Bradley shot only shot 6/19 on the day, starting the game cold from the field. Despite his slow start, Bradley came back to lead the Lions with 17 points, including five-straight baskets late in the second half as EMCC was pulling away.
“I wasn't feeling it today,” Bradley said. “We came out and didn't play like we should, and the shots weren't falling. We just told ourselves, it's win or go home, win or go home, and we had to get the job done.”
Former Northeast Lauderdale standout, A.J. Wade also had a productive night for the Lions, accounting for six assist and three steals.
EMCC will move on to play No. 1 seed Baton Rouge Community College on Friday at 12:30 p.m. at Mississippi College in the second round of the Region 23 Tournament.
“They beat us both times we played them,” White said. “It's been a while, it's been like three months since we played them. Ricky Wilson does a great job coaching that team. They are well-coached, well-disciplined and are a great all-around team.”