East Mississippi opens Fiesta Bowl hoops tournament with 73-59 win over No. 18 Central Arizona

East Mississippi opens Fiesta Bowl hoops tournament with 73-59 win over No. 18 Central Arizona

MESA, Ariz. – The East Mississippi Community College Lions never trailed en route to claiming a 73-59 victory over 18th-ranked Central Arizona College in Friday's quarterfinals of the fourth annual Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout being held at Theo Heap Gym on the campus of Mesa Community College. 

Improving to 6-2 on the season, head coach Mark White's EMCC Lions advance to take on Salt Lake (UT) Community College (11-2) in Saturday's tournament semifinals.  Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. MT (9 p.m. CT).  SLCC upset second-ranked and previously unbeaten Howard College (TX), 66-63, in Friday's tourney opener.

Coming off their 70-62 road loss to Baton Rouge Community College on Dec. 10, the Lions scored eight unanswered points midway through the opening half to open up a 20-9 lead over Central Arizona.  EMCC maintained its advantage at the break with a 35-28 halftime lead.

The Vaqueros cut the deficit to four points (42-38) five minutes into the second stanza, before James Madison University transfer Keynan Pittman provided a spark coming off the EMCC bench.  A put-back basket and a pair of free throws by Pittman preceded a timely 3-pointer by Micah Walker that widened the Lions' lead back out to nine points at 49-40 with 12 minutes remaining in the contest.

Entering the prestigious tournament averaging 91.7 points per game on the season, Central Arizona continued to battle trimming EMCC's lead back down to four points (57-53) on a DeAndre Mathieu basket at the 7:11 mark.  Holding the Vaqueros to a season-low 59 points on just 30-percent (17-of-57 FGs) shooting for the game, the Lions held on to their precarious lead for the next five minutes.  With the balance of the game potentially on the line, Walker nailed another clutch 3-pointer with 1:44 left while freshman point guard Nick Giles followed with a key floater in the lane to increase the margin to 11 points (70-59) and put the game out of reach.

Sophomore Jarekious Bradley, the NJCAA's leading scorer on the year, led all scorers with 21 points, including a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.  The former Midland College transfer also paced the Lions with eight rebounds.  Walker and freshman guard Jacolby Mobley, of Starkville, followed with 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the winners.

Falling to 10-2 on the year, Central Arizona put four players in double figures, led by Mathieu's 16 points.  Vincentas Aleksandravicius added 13 points for the Vaqueros.  CAC will face Howard College in a Saturday consolation bracket contest.

EMCC's Saturday and Sunday tournament games from Arizona are also slated to be video-streamed live via www.emccathletics.com on the school's Ustream channel at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-basketball.  EMCC media director/athletic video coordinator Derek Cody will handle the play-by-play of the Lions' tournament broadcasts.

Fans are also able to follow the exciting action of the three-day tournament through Mesa Community College's athletics website at http://athletics.mesacc.edu/mens-basketball/fiesta-bowl-junior-college-shootout-details.  Links to available online broadcasts during the 12-game tournament will be featured on the website.  Live in-game statistics and post-game final box scores will also be available online throughout the weekend.