POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Pearl River Community College’s historic 28-0 season seems like a lifetime ago. Granted, it did take place in a pre-Coronavirus world.
Yet, it’s been less than a year since the Wildcats became Mississippi’s first junior college program to earn the top seed in the NJCAA Tournament.
Of course, PRCC never made the trip to Hutchison, Kansas when COVID arrived in March.
After sending six players to four-year programs, coach Chris Oney’s club looks different in 2021. Compounded with what resembles a football schedule – just 16 games – Pearl River will have to grow up quickly.
“Well, I think we’re a long ways away from when we last walked off the court together as a team,” said Oney, the reigning NJCAA Coach of the Year. “Obviously, we have a lot of new guys. Obviously, losing two All-Americans is going to be tough to replace. But I think we got guys that understand that it won’t be easy and realize that we gotta work and fight just as hard as we did last year to accomplish some of the goals that we accomplished last year.”
The Wildcats’ neighbors inside Marvin R. White Coliseum – the Lady Wildcats – return four players from a 2019-20 team that won 15 games.
Head coach Scotty Fletcher has changed the culture in six seasons, bringing PRCC to a second straight MACJC tournament last year.
Now he welcomes a new challenge, serving as Pearl River’s athletic director in 2021.
“[Fletcher] pushes us because he knows all of our potential, so he wants us to meet our potential,” said PRCC freshman forward Alesha Temple, an Oak Grove grad. “He helps us, definitely, to get to that next level.”
“It’s been a building block and that goes a lot of credit to our players, buying in each and every day,” Fletcher said. “This past year when we made the playoffs I think was the first time that we’ve made it back to back since 1995. I can just remember my first year hitting the ground running, going a hundred miles an hour and probably not enjoying the time and the relationships that I do now. This place means a lot to me.”
The Lady Wildcats open their season on January 25 in Poplarville against East Central Community College.
The men’s team hosts Baton Rouge Community College on January 21 to open the year.