SCOOBA – East Mississippi Community College's return to the hardwood from the Thanksgiving holiday break resulted in a pair of home basketball losses to reigning NJCAA Tournament participants Shelton State Community College Monday night at Keyes T. Currie Coliseum. Following the EMCC women's 86-65 setback to the preseason nationally third-ranked Lady Bucs, the Lions also battled from behind before dropping a 71-63 decision in the men's nightcap.
In the men's nightcap, the Lions couldn't overcome a 22-percent, first-half shooting drought on the way to suffering their first defeat of the young season. Connecting on only 8-of-37 field goals, including just 2-of-14 from three-point range, through the opening 20 minutes of play, EMCC trailed, 40-27, at the halftime break.
The Lions came out of intermission making an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to six points (44-38) on Terryonte Thomas' 3-pointer at the 15:42 mark. However, the visitors responded with 10 unanswered points over the next four minutes to pull ahead by 16 points.
Later in the half, EMCC's full-court press forced consecutive steals in the backcourt that helped cut the deficit to six points (64-58) with 2:34 remaining in the game. Markedric Bell's dunk following a Keith Harris steal preceded another steal that led to a 1-of-2 trip to the charity stripe for Bell.
The Lions made one more attempt at a comeback when Harris bombed in an acrobatic 3-pointer to make it a five-point game (68-63) with 38.4 seconds left. Extending their season-opening win streak to seven games, the visiting Buccaneers hit 3-of-4 free throws over the final 27.6 seconds to seal the eight-point triumph.
Tre Todd and Charles Norman led a balanced Shelton State scoring attack with 14 points apiece. Tra'Quan Knight and Jamani Glover also scored in double digits with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
EMCC's Thomas, a product of New Hope High School, topped all game scorers with 25 points. Starkville's Darrious Agnew (12 points & 10 rebounds) and Ripley's Dewayne Cox (10/11) added double-doubles for the Lions.
In the women's contest, the Lions cut into a 13-point deficit by making an 8-1 run to close out the first quarter only trailing by six points (26-20). They managed to trim the margin to two points on two occasions early in the second period before Cierra Johnson, a reigning NJCAA First Team All-American, and Margaret Robinson combined to lead Shelton State on a 12-0 spurt to extend the visitors' lead to 14 points. The Lady Bucs then outscored EMCC, 12-2, over the final three minutes of the half to take a comfortable 53-32 halftime advantage.
After the lead grew to 27 points (75-48) at the conclusion of the third quarter, the Lions attempted to get back into the game by scoring the first 11 points of the final period. A three-point play by Savannah Reier put Shelton State back on the scoreboard midway through the quarter. The Lady Bucs, who were 34-3 last season and finished third nationally in the NJCAA Division I Women's Championship in Lubbock, Texas a year ago, then regained control of the contest en route to their eighth straight win of the current season.
Johnson paced five Shelton State double-figure scorers with a game-high 24 points. Reier followed with 19 points for the winners.
Falling to 2-3 on the year, the EMCC women were led by reigning MACJC All-State guard Tyeisha Juhan with 21 points. Columbus' Kayla Rogers added 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while fellow sophomores Jordanna Morris and Kaisah Lucky followed with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Coach Billy Begley's 4-1 EMCC men will stay at home to play host to Faith Preparatory Academy, based out of West Memphis, Ark., Thursday on the Scooba campus. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Currie Coliseum. Coach Sharon Thompson's EMCC women will travel to Boaz, Ala., on Thursday to take on Snead State Community College at 5:30 p.m.