CLINTON – It was a defensive battle from the start and the Jones College Bobcats came up just short.
No. 15 Pearl River scored 10 of its 12 points in overtime off the free throw line and edged the Bobcats 63-61 here Thursday night in the Region 23 Tournament semifinals at A.E. Wood Coliseum.
The Bobcats, 21-7, must now wait until Monday morning to see if they receive an at-large invitation to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Pearl River, 24-3, will play Holmes at 7 p.m. Friday for the region title and automatic bid to the national tournament. Holmes defeated Mississippi Gulf Coast 48-45 in Thursday's other semifinal game.
The Bobcats had foul issues most of the game with leading scorer Galen Alexander (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) restricted for most of the second half. He picked up his fourth foul with 14:19 left in the game, returned with 4:16 left in regulation and fouled out with 4:42 left in overtime. He finished with eight points.
Center Tirus Smith (Petal) was also limited by foul problems.
Jones had a chance to win it in regulation.
Winceton Edwards (Oak Grove) hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 to play to give Jones a 51-48 lead.
Brandon Rachal made a free throw with 55 seconds left and LaGarious White scored on a drive to the goal to tie it at 51-51 with 10.5 seconds to play.
Kenneth Rogers (Starkville) had a good look a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was no good and the game went into overtime.
The Wildcats would take a 60-55 lead with 1:05 to play in the extra session when Cedric Brim Jr. made PRCC's only field goal in overtime, drew the foul and converted the 3-point play.
David McCoy cut the lead to 60-57 with 35.9 seconds showing. Jonas James III hit a free throw with 33.6 seconds left to make it 61-57.
Casey Smith Jr. (Columbus) hit a free throw with 26.8 seconds left and Brim made one at 22.2 seconds to make it 62-58.
After a Jones miss, Brim hit another free throw at 10.3 seconds to give PRCC a 63-58 lead.
McCoy hit a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds remaining to cut the lead to two.
Brim was fouled with 3.2 seconds showing and missed both shots, giving the Bobcats one final chance.
McCoy got the ball with no timeouts, dribbled just past midcourt and missed on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bobcats opened the game strong defensively, taking an 18-6 lead over midway through the half. Alexander's basket with 40 seconds showing had Jones ahead 24-12, but PRCC got a basket from Rachal with 20 seconds left and Cameron Smith converted two free throws with .2 seconds to play to cut the lead to 24-16 at halftime.
Jones would struggle offensively for the first part of the second half. PRCC opened half on a 19-2 run. The Bobcats' first field goal did not come until David Gaines Jr. (Wayne County) scored with 11:46 left in regulation to cut the lead to 35-28.
But after a Christopher Agbo dunk with 11:24 to play to make it 37-28, the Bobcats battled back and would take a 41-40 lead with 7:16 remaining on a Tirus Smith basket.
Jones would end up making 9-of-14 free throws for the game, while the Wildcats were 26-of-45 off the charity stripe.
Edwards and Casey Smith Jr. led Jones with 11 points each.
Rachal topped all scorers with 25 points, including an 11-of-17 effort from the foul line. Brim added 13.
Region 23 Tournament
A.E. Wood Coliseum
No. 15 Pearl River 63, Jones College 61 (OT)
Pearl River (24-3) 16 35 12 – 63
Jones College (21-7) 24 27 10 – 61
PEARL RIVER (63) – Brandon Rachal 25, Cedric Brim Jr. 13, Jonas James III 6, Christopher Agbo 6, Eric Thornton Jr. 4, Kirk Parker 4, Cameron Smith 2, LaGarious White 2, Kelvin Allen 1.
JONES COLLEGE (61)– Casey Smith Jr. 11, Winceton Edwards 11, Galen Alexander 8, Tirus Smith 8, Sayveon Bumpers 7, Michael Williams Jr. 6, David McCoy 5, Zachariah Malone 3, David Gaines Jr. 2, Kenneth Rogers 0.
Region 23 Tournament
A.E. Wood Coliseum
Mississippi Gulf Coast 78, Southern-Shreveport 60
Holmes 72, East Mississippi 64
Pearl River 78, Northeast 43
Jones College 74, East Central 54
Holmes 48, Mississippi Gulf Coast 45
Pearl River 63, Jones College 61 (OT)
7 p.m., Championship
Men's Region 23 champion will play in NJCAA Division I National Tournament March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas