Clinton, Miss. – Raheem Sorrell captured an illustrious personal milestone as the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team extended its season for at least one more game.
Sorrell recorded the 500th point of his two-year tenure with the Tigers during an 88-81 victory over Holmes Community College in the quarterfinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament on Thursday, March 3 at A.E. Wood Coliseum.
"That's something that I've been striving to do," said Sorrell. "That's a big achievement. I've got good players around me that help me everyday. It's all around a good feeling. This means everything to me."
Sorrell reached this prestigious plateau with two free throws at the 10:35 mark of the second half. He is the second Northeast athlete to accomplish this feat in the past two seasons alongside NJCAA All-American and current University of North Alabama standout Dimario Jackson.
"I'm very proud and excited for him," Tigers head coach Cord Wright said. "That's obviously a tremendous honor. It's a credit to him being a good player. This is well deserved."
It was another classic down-to-the-wire battle overall between Northeast and the Bulldogs in what was the seventh meeting between these two programs over the last two years.
The game featured nine lead changes and seven other instances in which the score was tied. But it was the Tigers that eventually eliminated the defending region champions by outscoring them 16-7 in the last three minutes.
Kendarius Smith gave Northeast a lead that it did not relinquish with 2:46 remaining on his fifth three-pointer of the matchup. He followed that with a layup seconds later to increase the Tigers' advantage to 77-74.
Northeast then used a quick 6-0 run that lasted less than one minute to clinch the win. Wesley Harris contributed a basket while Smith and Sorrell both hit two free shots apiece in that span.
The Tigers got to the charity stripe 31 times after the intermission and made 22 of their attempts. Northeast was especially good in the closing moments with a 9 of 10 ledger in the final 60 seconds.
"We had to play our best game and our guys stepped up to the challenge," said Wright. "The key word was team. This is a team that is consistently growing up. We stayed with it and I thought they did a great job."
A back-and-forth opening half saw the Bulldogs (18-7) take a 22-16 advantage with 12:04 showing on the clock following back-to-back field goals from University of Arkansas signee Daryl Macon.
The Tigers maintained their lead for the rest of the period using two Sorrell buckets and another trey from Smith. Macon did make a pair of free throws just before the buzzer sounded to cut the deficit for Holmes to 45-37.
Northeast's halftime advantage evaporated after the Bulldogs accounted for 13 of the initial 16 points out of the locker room. But Wesley Harris got the Tigers back on track with four swift points in a row.
Smith paced Northeast (16-9) with a career-high 28 points. He was 9 of 16 from the floor for the tenth double-figure performance of his inaugural campaign in the City of Hospitality.
"I knew I was better than what I'd been playing like all year," Smith said. "I was just more aggressive. The first couple of shots I knocked down and that got me going. The rims showed me a lot of love."
Wesley Harris produced his seventh double-double of the season with 20 points and a game-best 12 rebounds. Sorrell finished with 16 points while Desmin Harris added 10 points as well.
Leroy Buchanan had a solid stat line for the Tigers with nine points, seven boards and six assists. Northeast was 36.5 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
The Tigers committed only eight turnovers, which was their second lowest total of the campaign. Northeast also held a plus-six edge on the boards with eight more offensive rebounds than Holmes.
Northeast advances to face another fellow Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division rival in Northwest Mississippi Community College. Tipoff for the semifinal round is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, March 4 at Mississippi College.