Down by double digits in the second half, Mississippi Gulf Coast had to solve one very vexing problem.
The Bulldogs had to slow down Holmes' Daryl Macon.
Gulf Coast did, reversing a 10-point deficit before surging to a 100-88 victory in the first round of the MACJC Tournament.
"We had some things where we just had the wrong guy guarding Macon out there," Gulf Coast coach Wendell Weathers said. "We just left him open. Once we got that fixed, our offense was good. They really didn't know how to guard our stuff, I didn't think. We just executed our offense."
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Gulf Coast (19-5) ripped off a 21-6 run by holding Macon to five points in the last 12:48. The win was the third straight by a lower seed to open the tournament, which has seen both No. 1 seeds bounced.
Holmes (18-6) was the North No. 1. East Mississippi upended South No. 1 Pearl River 80-73.
Gulf Coast plays Jones County at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Jones, the South No. 2 seed, downed Northeast 67-63. The winner advances to the finals Thursday at 8 p.m.
Davion Cole-Johnson led Gulf Coast with 25 points and eight rebounds.
"Right now, it doesn't mean anything," Cole-Johnson said. "We've got to win Wednesday. It's back to the drawing board. One game at a time."
Deshawn Jones had 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Anfernee Hampton had 14 points, Dylan Causwell 13 and Eliel Gonzalez had 10. Gonzalez added eight assists off the bench.
"I thought Eliel did a helluva job," Weathers said. "If we can keep his head screwed on straight, he's a pretty good player. It's the days we don't know what planet he's on that we have to worry about. When he's down here on Earth, he's a pretty good player."
Macon finished with 33 points.
Causwell provided a lift for the Bulldogs at the end of the first half, scoring Gulf Coast's last five points. He had a baseline dunk off an assist from Gonzalez, got fouled and made the free throw.
"Dylan played very, very well," Weathers said. "We took him out one time, and I told Coach (Patrick) Wilcher, 'He's playing pretty well.' He said just give him a break. He was big from the beginning. He did a good job."
Causwell added a put-back at the buzzer to give Gulf Coast a 42-41 advantage.
"Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations," he said. "We had a lot of foul trouble, so I just had to go in there and make plays."
Fellow big men Peyton Owen and Tedrian Brisco fouled out, but Causwell picked up five rebounds in their stead.
Jones started Gulf Coast's comeback with a jumper, and Hampton's dunk off a sky-high alley-oop from Gonzalez tied it two minutes later.
Gonzalez picked Macon's pocket for a layup to give Gulf Coast an 80-75 lead with 7:40 left.
"I knew it was coming," he said. "When I was on the bench, he was doing the same move every time. I was waiting for that kind of half-spin move. I stayed there and waited for it."
Causwell's free throw with 2:21 left gave Gulf Coast a 10-point advantage, and when Jones drove the basket, scored and got fouled with 1:52 left, he sat on the floor and flexed in celebration.
"It felt like it was a dagger," he said.
Gulf Coast will try to recapture that final push for the semifinals Wednesday.
"The second half, once we got our stuff going, the last 12 minutes we were pretty good," Weathers said. "Hats off to our kids. They did a great job.
Pearl River falls to EMCC: Pearl River Community College had no answer in the second half against East Mississippi in the quarterfinals of the MACJC Men's Basketball State Tournament.
As a result, the Wildcats' stay in the tournament at the Davis Event Center on the Itawamba Community College campus was brief, as they were eliminated with an 80-73 loss to the Lions, ending PRCC's two-year reign as state champions.
"We had guys who needed to make shots that didn't make shots," said PRCC head coach Chris Oney. "Those guys tried to make the plays that we needed to make, but they didn't make them. Some nights it's like that."
The loss does not end Pearl River's season, as the Wildcats (16-8) have already qualified for the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament next week at Clinton, by virtue of finishing the regular season as the top seed in the South Division.
East Mississippi (18-6) will continue in the state tournament, facing Southwest Mississippi in Wednesday's semifinals.
"We need a little chance to recuperate, I would say, get back together," said Wildcat forward Darrlyn Willis. "We've got some injuries and we didn't have all of our guys with us tonight."
Willis did his part to keep the Wildcats in the state tournament, scoring a game-high 29 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. The sophomore from Madison, Wis., was 13 of 13 from the foul line and also blocked three shots.
Baseball postponed: Gulf Coast's baseball doubleheader with Alabama Southern at MGM Park on Tuesday was postponed because of bad weather. No makeup date has been set. Gulf Coast (6-2) returns to action Saturday with Kaskaskia College visiting for a doubleheader. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.