Tallahassee, Fla. – Leroy Buchanan pieced together one of the most impressive individual stretches of the season during Northeast Mississippi Community College's opener in the Tallahassee Democrat Holiday Classic.
Buchanan scored 12 points in just over two minutes for the Tigers. But Northeast eventually fell short in a back-and-forth contest with Pensacola State (Fla.) College by a 79-76 margin on Thursday, December 29 at the Bill Hebrock Eagledome.
The Murray State (Ky.) University signee stole the basketball after the Pirates inbounded to begin the second half and transitioned it into a two-hand jam to start his phenomenal personal run.
Buchanan got the job done in several different ways following his highlight reel dunk with several short jump shots from around the free throw line and a three-pointer as well.
He ended up accumulating a game-high 28 points, which was only four points shy of his career-best. Buchanan also tallied seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks for the Tigers.
"They had me face guarded in the first half," said Buchanan. "They kinda slacked off me so I just started going in the second. We've got a young team, but we've got fight. We stepped up to the challenge."
Northeast, which is receiving votes in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I poll, and Pensacola State exchanged the lead an incredible 20 times and were tied on seven other instances.
The Pirates (10-4) eventually pulled ahead of the Tigers by as many as nine points at 72-63 with under four minutes remaining in the contest following a four-point play by Daryl Lewis.
But Darius Williams and Buchanan accounted for six unanswered points at the charity stripe to get Northeast back within one possession of Pensacola State's advantage.
The matchup eventually came down to the wire and the Tigers had the chance to tie things up after the Pirates turned the ball over underneath their opponents' goal with 12 seconds to go.
However, Northeast's three-point attempt that would have evened the contest rimmed out and Pensacola State made two free throws moments later to put the game out of reach.
"Never do we like losing, but I thought we did a lot of good things," Tigers head coach Cord Wright said. "A lot of stuff didn't go our way, but we competed. We came up a little bit short, but I'm proud of our effort."
Kendall Stafford followed Buchanan with 15 points and was Northeast's only other player to reach double-digits against the Pirates. Each of his points came from beyond the arc.
(M) Tallahassee 85, Northeast 49
The host Eagles, who are No. 9 in the NJCAA's Division I rankings, led from start to finish thanks in part to a hot start during the final game of the tournament on Friday, December 30.
Tallahassee (17-1) scored 17 of the initial 20 points over a span of six minutes. Terrell Jennings had the first bucket of the matchup for the Tigers on a layup that was assisted by Williams at the 18:24 mark.
Northeast then suffered through an over eight minute drought without a field goal. Shunn Buchanan's jumper with 10:29 to go before halftime snapped that streak and cut the Tigers' deficit to 19-7.
That was the closest Northeast came to the Eagles' lead. Williams knocked down a trey that brought the Tigers within 32-16, but Tallahassee increased its advantage to 41-23 by the intermission.
Leroy Buchanan started the second half on a positive note for Northeast with a nice driving layup. He added a two-handed slam dunk a couple of minutes later off a pristine pass by his brother Shunn.
Kendarius Smith, who was one of two double-figure scorers for the Tigers, found his touch in the last 10 minutes of the contest. He drilled a pair of shots from behind the arc in that stretch for six of his 11 points.
"We didn't execute the game plan right," said Smith. "They were tough and we didn't respond well when things got bad. That's what happened, but what we want to do is still on the table. We know what to expect now."
"In order to beat good teams, you've got to have a plan and execute it. We didn't do that," Wright said. "It's hard to learn from the actual game itself, but hopefully as a team we can learn how to come together."
Leroy Buchanan once again topped the Tigers with 16 points, including an eight-of-nine ledger from the charity line. He also recorded a career-high five blocks against the Eagles.
Northeast (8-3) had a season-best seven blocks and had 13 total swats during the two-day event. The Tigers made 20 free throws in a single matchup for just the third time this year as well.
The Tigers begin the 2017 portion of their schedule on Tuesday, January 10 inside Bonner Arnold Coliseum against Arkansas State University Mid-South. The women get things underway at 5:30 p.m. in the final non-division doubleheader of the season.