Booneville, Miss. - Bryant Givens' father picked a good night to stop by and see his son perform alongside the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team.
Givens pieced together an impressive triple-double to help the Tigers make a triumphant return from their three-week holiday layoff with a 100-88 decision over West Kentucky Community and Technical College on Thursday, January 4 at Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
"Most nights I don't have my family around because we live so far away," said Givens, whose hometown is around 600 miles from Booneville in South Bend, Ind. "It was just a blessing that my father was on his way back home and he decided to stop by and surprise me and show up to the game.
"He had called me before the game and he told me, 'I need at least a double-double. I know you can't get a triple-double.' So I told him I had to. I just had to go out there and perform."
Givens compiled a season-best 26 points, which was one point shy of his career-high mark set while he was at Lincoln Trail (Ill.) College last year. He was 11 of 14 overall from the floor, which includes a perfect night from beyond the arc in three attempts.
The 6-0, 175-pound guard added 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which were both career-bests. He completed the rare triple-double feat with his final board of the contest with only 34 seconds remaining.
"It's a nice accomplishment," Givens said. "It shows that I was going hard. I did a little bit of everything, you know, rebounding, getting my teammates involved with passing the ball and also being aggressive by scoring."
Givens was one of six double-digit scorers for Northeast, which is receiving votes in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll. Bryce Smith followed with 16 points, including four massive slam dunks that were spread across his 18 minutes of action.
"I know that I can be aggressive to help my team out," said Smith. "Coach (Cord Wright) just told me to relax, wait and let the game come to me. I made my post moves strong and dunked the ball."
Antares Gwyn recorded a double-double for the second consecutive contest and for the fourth time this season. He had 15 points coupled with a game-best 11 rebounds to pace a Northeast team that had a plus-26 margin on the boards.
"I was ready to get back out here on the court and play," Gwyn said. "The effort tonight was tremendous. We shared the ball and wasn't selfish with it. We need to keep working together as a team."
Felix Hayes barely missed a double-double himself with 14 points and eight rebounds. Conner McKay and Thomas Cain round out the list of double-figure scorers for the Tigers with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
It is the quickest that the Tigers have reached the 10-win plateau since the 2011-12 campaign when they won 10 of their initial 11 matchups. Northeast improved to 9-2 against non-division opponents, which is its best mark since going 9-1 during the aforementioned season six years ago.
"I was pleased offensively because I thought we shared the ball really well," Wright said. "All-in-all, I think we got out of (this game) what we needed to. We had to get our feat back underneath us. We had a better intensity defensively in the second half."
Both teams went back-and-forth in a first half that featured eight lead changes and three other instances in which the score was tied. The Tigers eventually jumped ahead of the Stars (5-9) for good with 5:51 to go before the break on a layup by Hayes.
Northeast took a 52-47 advantage into the locker room and expanded it to double-digits early in the second half. An 8-0 run sparked by three-pointers from Givens and McKay lifted the Tigers ahead 66-54 with 16:17 showing on the clock.
A separate 9-1 spurt moments later that featured one of Smith's dunks plus five straight points from Cain pushed Northeast up 75-57. Arthur Johnson's bucket that was assisted by Job Vernor gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the evening at 89-66 with 6:42 remaining.
Northeast (10-2) posted season-highs of 31 assists and 41 made field goals. The Tigers crossed the century mark for the third time this year, which matches its total from the previous campaign.
The Tigers resume Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division play next Thursday, January 11 when Northwest Mississippi Community College visits the City of Hospitality. Tipoff for the women's matchup is slated for 5:30 p.m. with the men to follow.