BRCC women win, men lose in Region 23 semifinals

The Baton Rouge Community College women’s basketball team is a victory away from the NJCAA tournament.

BRCC braved a back-and-forth game Friday night in the Region 23 tournament semifinals to post a 62-59 victory against Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Clinton, Miss. With a victory Saturday night against Itawamba Community College, BRCC will head to the national tournament, which starts March 18 in Salina, Kan.

Talaiah Robertson had 17 points for BRCC (22-8), and Charki’ra Fields added 11. BRCC led 34-28 at halftime but quickly gave up the edge.

“I told the kids the first five minutes would be so important, but next thing you know we were down two points,” coach Paula Lee said. “It was a back-and-forth game most of the way. ... We needed to attack the basket, which we did. We were able to get to the free-throw line.”

Lee credited freshman Ashley Williams for some key plays late in the game.

“Ashley came in and did a great job defensively and got to the free throw line and made three out of four free throws down the stretch,” she said.

Lee took in Friday night’s other semifinal — Itawamba’s 62-56 victory against Northwest Mississippi — and said her team will have to be strong inside to prevail Saturday.

“They’re a scrappy team,” she said. “They’ve got some post players who really go to work inside.”

Men

EAST MISSISSIPPI 68, BRCC 60: Its opponent’s third shot at the Baton Rouge Community College men’s basketball team proved too much for the Bears to handle.

After it beat East Mississippi Community College twice during the regular season, BRCC couldn’t complete the hat trick in the Region 23 semifinals.

Second-seeded EMCC (19-7) advanced to the championship game, where it will face Northwest Mississippi on Saturday night. Barring a surprising at-large bid to the NJCAA tournament, No. 3 seed BRCC ends its season at 16-14.

The Bears, who came into the game with just one loss this calendar year, beat EMCC on the road in November and at home in December, but a March rematch was too much.

“Turnovers and rebounding,” coach Ricky Wilson said. “They outrebounded us by 10, and I think they had more turnovers than us, but we turned the ball over on their press defense, and those turnovers led to easy layups.”

BRCC trailed 31-29 at halftime and was within four points in the final minutes but couldn’t get any closer.

“We had opportunities to win, but we just didn’t rebound the ball when we needed to and we didn’t take care of the ball when we needed to,” Wilson said. “To my guys’ credit, they battled. ... It just didn’t work out.”

BRCC got all but 14 of its points from two players: 24 from Jeffrey Walker and 22 from Darrice Whitley. EMCC got 22 from Jarekious Bradley.