As the final buzzer sounded, Baton Rouge Community College’s rookie men’s basketball coach Ricky Wilson cringed as he stood along the sidelines.
On the job for only 15 days, his first experience in the BRCC coaching chair Thursday night was a painful one.
The Bears rallied from a double-digit deficit in their home season opener against Pearl River Community College only to let it slip away as the Wildcats escaped with a 70-59 triumph.
The Wildcats relied on six 3-pointers in the first half including three from sophomore swingman Yondarius Johnson, who led all scorers with 29. PRCC guard Daron Bell contributed with 19. Freshman guard Matt LeBato led the Bears with 13 points while Tyson Goldwire added 8.
“We played tough from beginning to end, but we didn’t execute and that’s how you win games,” Wilson said. “I’m encouraged by the effort we played with, but it’s my full responsibility for the result.”
PRCC opened the second half with trips to the free-throw line on five straight possessions. But the Wildcats converted only 4-of-8 attempts during that stretch and gave the Bears a chance to rally.
BRCC scored back-to-back lay-ups before Goldwire sank a 17-footer to cut the deficit to 41-31. But Johnson scored on three consecutive PRCC possessions, including a 3-point play that put the Wildcats ahead 47-35 with 12:24 left in the second half.
Bears guard Demetri Gill cut the deficit to 50-45 with a lay-up at the 8:29 mark, but PRCC responded with a transition lay-up by Johnson. Johnson forced a turnover and added a free throw on his next trip down the court to increase the Wildcats’ lead to 55-45.
The Bears reduced the deficit to single digits on three more possessions. The Wildcats missed 4-of-5 free throws in a four-minute span, but held the Bears scoreless during that stretch.
“We switched from man and went to a 1-3-1 with some traps to try to get all of their good shooters a little bit out of rhythm and that worked for us,” said Wildcats coach Richard Mathis.
Johnson then scored baskets on three straight trips, including a 3-pointer that gave PRCC a 61-47 advantage with 4:27 remaining.
“(Johnson) is a great player,” Wilson said. “We were late on the catch and we didn’t contest his shot, and a good shooter is always going to make those shots.”
LeBato dropped a 3-pointer with two minutes remaining to get the Bears back within 10, but Johnson and Bell added five free throws to give PRCC a 64-50 lead.
PRCC opened the game on a 6-0 run after Johnson converted his first two shots. Bears guard Levie Wright cut the lead to 12-10 with two consecutive baskets before the Wildcats hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a 10-0 run that increased their lead to 22-12 with 9:15 left in the first half.
BRCC managed only two field goals in the final five minutes of the first half.