Mississippi Gulf Coast had to win Thursday night on the road to stay alive for the MACJC, and the fact the Bulldogs beat archrival Pearl River 65-62 made it all the sweeter.
Gulf Coast (18-3, 10-2 MACJC South), winners of six straight, is now in a three-way tie with the No. 12 Wildcats (19-2, 10-2) and Jones atop the division.
"I thought we played really well, particularly on the defensive end," Gulf Coast coach Wendell Weathers said. "We gave up a few things and let them get to the rim there late, but for the most part, our defense was rock-solid."
Willie Logan (So., Brookhaven/Northwest Rankin), a transfer from PRCC, had 18 points against his old team. Keevon Oney (So., Gulfport/Gulfport) and LaRaymond Spivery (So., Lucedale/George County) had 13 each.
Gulf Coast led 32-30 at halftime, and the Bulldogs were up by nine with 7:17 to play. Pearl River rallied, however, and took its first lead of the game at 60-59 with 1:42 left.
Spivery got fouled attempting a 3-pointer with 35.2 seconds left, and made all three to retake the lead for good. Dillyn Neely (Fr., Biloxi/Biloxi) made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch, and the Wildcats' last-second 3-pointer was no good.
"Offensively, we might could have been better, but we were ahead for the whole game except for one possession there late," Weathers said. "That was the only possession we were behind the whole game. We gave up 30 points in the first half, and 17 were on the foul line."
The Bulldogs entertain Jones on Monday at Sophomore Night with first place in the South on the line. Tipoff at the Weathers-Wentzell Center is at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs' postseason seeding could hinge on a list of tiebreaking criteria.
"Believe it or not, I'm not concerned about that right now," Weathers said. "Tonight's win is irrelevant if we don't get ready and win Monday night. We could have lost all three of these games and still finished third. We're trying to get to first place. We're in first place with two other teams. It's a matter a staying there."
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