Decatur, Miss. – A half dozen of Northeast Mississippi Community College's brightest stars on the hardwood have received the opportunity to represent the black-and-gold for one more night.
Three sophomores from both the men's and women's programs at Northeast were selected to compete in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-Star Games on Friday, April 14 at East Central Community College.
LaKeiya Lane successfully returned from an injury that caused her to miss the entire 2015-16 campaign and was a key reason why the Lady Tigers snapped their three-year postseason drought.
Lane finished second for Northeast with an average of 16.2 points per game. She was one of only two players on the team to earn the starting nod in all 26 contests this year.
The Southaven High School graduate surpassed the prestigious 500-point plateau during the Lady Tigers' thrilling 65-62 victory at reigning region champion Itawamba Community College. She totaled 691 points over a span of two seasons.
She posted a career-high 31 points early during the campaign at Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College. Lane also topped Northeast in assists and steals with stellar averages of 4.9 and 2.1, respectively.
Timaya Stewart was one of four Lady Tigers to place in double figures with 13.3 points. She had the second highest three-point percentage on the squad all while handling point guard duties for Northeast.
The Baldwyn native was an underrated rebounder as well with 6.4 per outing. She had three double-doubles at Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College and East Central plus in a home win over Holmes Community College.
Stewart made one of the most memorable plays of the campaign when she scored the tying basket at the horn to send the Lady Tigers' eventual National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament quarterfinal victory over Southwest Mississippi Community College to overtime.
She eclipsed the 500-point mark as well and finished with 628 points. Stewart reached that accomplishment during a late January win over Mississippi Delta Community College.
Shelby Wilbanks was once again the offensive catalyst for Northeast after leading her squad in points per game for a second consecutive season with 16.4 on the strength of a 47.2 field goal percentage.
She also guided the Lady Tigers in the post with a team-high 8.7 rebounds. Wilbanks scored in double-digits during all but two contests during her exceptional tenure in the City of Hospitality.
The Walnut product was a MACJC All-State selection as a freshman with averages of 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds. Wilbanks compiled a phenomenal 20 double-doubles while wearing a Northeast uniform.
Wilbanks started in 49 straight contests for the Lady Tigers and compiled exceptional figures including 832 points and 449 rebounds all while playing over 33 minutes each matchup.
"These players worked hard to turn our season around and were strong components in helping us make it to the playoffs," said Lady Tigers head coach Brenda Mayes. "They represented themselves, their families and Northeast with pride."
Zach Hudson transferred to Northeast during the offseason and provided much needed depth in the post as well as several rim-rattling dunks that pleased the fans inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
Hudson's role with the Tigers increased midway through the campaign when he moved into the starting lineup on a permanent basis for the final 14 games beginning on January 23 at Itawamba.
The Wingfield High School alumnus accumulated a career-high 17 points in a pivotal road triumph for the eventual MACJC North Division champions at East Mississippi Community College.
He averaged 5.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, including a season-best 11 boards versus Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, during the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College's A.E. Wood Coliseum.
Kendarius Smith might have been the smallest athlete on Northeast's roster by height, but his leadership from the point guard position was monumental over a two-year stint on the Booneville campus.
The Velma Jackson High School graduate became one of four double figure scorers for the Tigers this season with 10.3 points. He also played the second most minutes among Northeast's talented corps with 27.5.
Smith accounted for his 500th career point in the Tigers' win versus Southwest in the MACJC State Tournament semifinal round. He tallied 560 points and 198 assists overall while at Northeast.
He notched a career-high 28 points as a freshman to lift Northeast past Holmes in the 2016 NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. Smith later scored 11 points in the national tournament at Hutchinson, Kan., against Salt Lake (Utah) Community College.
Kendall Stafford wielded one of the most accurate shots from beyond the arc for the Tigers. He had a 34.8 three-point percentage, which helped him rack up 10.7 points per outing.
Stafford pieced together perhaps his most memorable game versus Southwest in the MACJC State Tournament. He amassed a career-best 27 points and sealed the victory with a thunderous one-hand slam-dunk with 13 seconds to go.
The Corinth native achieved double figures 21 times while at Northeast with 15 of those coming during his final campaign. Stafford also had big performances in wins over Arkansas Baptist College with 25 points and Arkansas State University Mid-South at 19 points.
He placed second on the team in rebounding with an average of 5.4. Stafford had his lone double-double of the year in a home triumph over Mississippi Delta with 12 points and 11 boards.
"I'm proud of these guys," Tigers head coach Cord Wright said. "It's well deserved. I'm excited to see them compete one more time before they move on to four-year schools."
The annual meeting of the best basketball student-athletes in the Magnolia State gets underway at 5 p.m. with women's action first. The men's competition immediately follows the opener at approximately 7 p.m. inside the Brackeen-Wood Physical Education Building in Decatur.