Booneville, Miss. – Nine of Northeast Mississippi Community College's finest student-athletes have garnered the athletic department's most esteemed honor for representing their teams in a positive manner.
Northeast has selected the winners for its annual Tiger Awards, which are given to players from each of its sports programs that portray good sportsmanship and quality characteristics on-and-off the field of competition.
Hannah Cox helped the softball team capture its 15th playoff appearance in 17 years of fast-pitch competition from her spot in the middle infield. She was part of a defensive unit that compiled a .958 fielding percentage, which was tied for 10th best in the country.
The South Lamar (Ala.) High School graduate finished in a tie for the second most hits for the Tigers with 47. She had a .322 batting average with 30 runs scored, nine doubles, 22 RBIs and a team-best 12 stolen bases during her sophomore campaign.
"Hannah was a daily motivator," said Northeast head coach Jody Long. "She lifted players up and encouraged them through struggles and rewards. When she stepped between the lines, she pushed everyone to give their best effort."
Sophomore Calin Holley of Nettleton is the Tiger Award recipient for the cheerleading squad. She and her teammates appeared at approximately 30 events both in Booneville and on the road this year.
Holley was also a member of the women's tennis program as a freshman and earned the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence after maintaining a flawless 4.0 grade point average (GPA).
"Calin exemplifies what all coaches are looking for," Northeast head coach Chasity Moore said. "She was an outstanding student, mature, dependable and has a great work ethic. Her future is extremely bright."
Abbey Hollowell served the women's tennis squad in one of its most pressure packed roles. She was the No. 2 singles player throughout the campaign and was part of the No. 1 doubles tandem alongside Meredith Murphy.
The Alcorn Central High School alumnus was recognized for her scholastic prowess as well after earning a spot on the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Academic All-State team.
Tomas Tucker starred primarily in the No. 4 slot in singles competition on the men's side of the tennis program. He tied Cory Lindsey and Jacob Price for the most individual victories during his freshman year.
The Shannon native alternated doubles partners throughout the season, but was mainly paired with Price in the No. 2 position. Tucker did play in the No. 1 slot on occasion with Alan Rivera.
"On game days, neither Tomas nor Abbey took a match off," said Northeast headman Stewart Moore. "They gave it everything they had. But it is their attitude that sets them apart. No matter win or lose, both never showed up their opponents by acting in a manner unbecoming. I can't wait to see what the future holds for them."
Garrison Howell became one of the most dynamic offensive players in the history of the baseball club. He is one of only a handful of Tigers to collect 50-plus hits in two consecutive campaigns.
The Houston product had 102 total base knocks in a Northeast uniform. He held a .311 batting average with 76 runs scored, 48 walks, 46 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and 11 extra base hits during his tenure in the City of Hospitality.
"Garrison is the type of player that we look for," Tigers head coach Richy Harrelson said. "He gives max effort in everything that he does. He excels in the classroom, weight room and on the field."
Kendrick Lofton, who graduated from Forest High School, proved to be a big asset for Northeast's football squad by playing two different positions on opposite sides of the pigskin in each of his seasons.
Lofton was used as a tight end primarily for blocking purposes as a freshman then transitioned to linebacker during his final campaign with the Tigers. He had a career-high three tackles in a win at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
"Kendrick is very deserving of this award," said Northeast head coach Greg Davis. "Anything we asked him to do he did it. He's a great person to be around with an infectious attitude. He was a true leader and an instrumental part of our turnaround."
Corinth's Kendall Stafford led the men's basketball team to its 16th MACJC North Division championship by posting 10.7 points per game. He was one of four Tigers to average double figures for the entire year.
He earned MACJC All-State laurels after placing second for Northeast with 5.4 rebounds. Stafford's career on the hardwood will continue this winter at the University of North Alabama.
"Kendall is a perfect example of what this award is all about," Tigers headman Cord Wright said. "He is a tremendous young man that will have a very bright future at the next level. Kendall is well respected by the players that played with him for the last two years."
Ken Waddell of Belmont was the elder statesman for the golf program this season as its lone sophomore. He averaged 84.6 shots per round during five tournament appearances for Northeast.
Waddell had a season-best round of 80 twice in events hosted by Meridian Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College. His best two-day score was 163 in the Lou Hart Invitational at Northwood Country Club.
"Ken has been the spirit of our team for the past two years," said Tigers head coach Mark Hatfield. "He worked hard during practice and would help others with drills. He always had a smile on his face and was quick to support his teammates. He has a strong sense of duty and loyalty."
Shelby Wilbanks from Walnut was a two-time MACJC All-State selection for the women's basketball squad. She accumulated 832 points during her stellar tenure at Northeast and reached double digits in 47 of her 49 outings.
The Charleston Southern (S.C.) University signee was a key reason why the Lady Tigers finished eighth in the NJCAA in rebounds per game. She was at the forefront of those efforts with a team-best 8.7 boards each matchup.
"Shelby is an all-around good person," Northeast head coach Brenda Mayes said. "She is athletic with an awesome work ethic to go along with her skills. Her character speaks for itself. She is caring, friendly and supportive."
The Tiger Award is sponsored each year by the Northeast Alumni Association. It has been a staple of the athletic department since the beginning of the institution in the late 1940s.