Booneville, Miss. - Supporters of Northeast Mississippi Community College's nine intercollegiate sports programs once again had plenty of reasons to cheer for the Lady Tigers and Tigers during the institution's 65th year of athletic competition.
Northeast recorded yet another successful overall campaign that featured two Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division runner-up finishes, five teams clinching berths to the postseason and a number of fantastic victories in a span of 10 months.
The Tiger baseball squad made history once again in 2014 by hosting the MACJC State Tournament for the first time in its current format. East Central Community College, Hinds Community College and then-top ranked Jones County Junior College ventured to the City of Hospitality for a great weekend of action on the diamond.
Approximately 1,250 fans packed Harold T. White Field over a three-day period that featured seven games. Three of the teams that qualified for the event either appeared in the National Junior College Athletic Association's (NJCAA) countrywide poll or were receiving votes.
Northeast, which rose to as high as No. 19 in the NJCAA's rankings during the regular season, finished with a 27-20 record. The Tigers also swept rival Itawamba Community College in its annual four-game series.
Six members of the 2014 baseball squad were selected for postseason honors. Trent Turner led the group with NJCAA All-Region 23 recognition while Luke Stanley, Heath Wood, Riley Alef, Easton Halland Evan Hickman each earned a spot on the MACJC All-State team.
Turner, who hails from Brandon, placed himself among the best in the country and state in multiple offensive categories. He was tops in the NJCAA with nine sacrifice flies, 12th in slugging percentage (.701) and 23rd in batting average (.423).
Wood concluded his career at Northeast with 100 hits and 100 runs scored. The Kossuth High School product made perhaps the most memorable play of the year as well when he climbed the left field wall and robbed Itawamba of a two-run homer to propel the Tigers to a sweep of the Indians in Booneville.
New Albany's Alef developed into one of the best catchers in the entire country as a sophomore. He caught 21 men attempting to steal, more than any other athlete in the Magnolia State and third most in the NJCAA, and held an even 50 percent success rate of nailing runners from behind the plate.
Hickman was the most reliable arm out of Northeast's bullpen with a 1.74 earned run average (ERA) in 20.2 innings of work. The Marshall Academy graduate accumulated eight saves, which was ninth best in the nation, in nine opportunities and compiled a perfect 4-0 record.
Eighth-year head coach Kent Farris also etched his name into the Northeast record books after garnering his 200th victory in a Tiger uniform on May 2 in a 9-8 decision against Pearl River Community College in the MACJC State Playoffs.
Jody Long's softball program made its fourth consecutive playoff appearance and the 12th trip in the 13-year history of the fast-pitch program during the 2014 campaign.
Under a new format that featured a two out of three series to start the postseason, the Tigers traveled to eventual national runner-up Jones County in the opening round and made their mark before falling to the Bobcats.
Yasmeen Cooper (Houston) blasted a solo home run just to the side of the scoreboard in left field while Bianca Chagolla (Riverside, Calif.) collected the 100th hit of her illustrious career with a RBI double in the second contest of the series.
Northeast also upset then nationally ranked Itawamba in Fulton on March 31 behind a brilliant performance in the circle from Alcorn Central High School alumnus Chelsea Buntin and a game winning RBI single by Houston's Avery Springer in the seventh inning.
The Tigers earned weekly conference honors five times this year. Bre Agnew (Booneville) claimed MACJC Player of the Week designation after smashing three home runs in one game versus Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College on March 8 in the Cardinal Spring Fling.
Buntin and Chagolla both received MACJC Pitcher of the Week accolades twice throughout the season. The duo also tossed one no-hitter apiece during the campaign as well.
Buntin conceded only one base runner on a fielding error and struck out four in a run-rule triumph over MACJC North Division foe Coahoma Community College while Chagolla kept Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College out of rhythm with an even seven groundouts and seven flyouts to complete the no-hitter in her final pitching performance ever at David Carnell Memorial Field.
Six Tigers garnered postseason awards, topped by a pair of MACJC All-State selections in Buntin and Chagolla. Buntin was also named the MACJC North Division Most Valuable Player while Treniska King (Tuscumbia, Ala.), Whittney Gee (Vardaman), Agnew, Chagolla and Cooper each achieved MACJC All-North Division status.
Northeast improved on the tennis courts under the tutelage of Ben Shappley and advanced multiple men and women to the second round of the 2014 MACJC State Tournament at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
In singles action, No. 5 Wesley Tye downed Connor Wilson of Holmes Community College 6-1, 6-4 while No. 6 Noah Wright bested Hinds representative Melvin McNair 6-3, 6-1. The two Booneville natives earned a first round bye in No. 3 doubles competition as well.
On the women's side, the No. 2 doubles team of Haley Brown (Iuka) and Erica Whitten (Booneville) edged past the Holmes pair of Jennifer Rule and Katherine Wood 6-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-4. Nikki Baird (Houston) and Lindsey Clark (Olive Branch) also narrowly triumphed over Lauren Peterson and Kristine Jenkins of East Central 3-6, 6-6 (7-2), 7-5.
Headman Nick Coln and the Northeast golf program came close to advancing to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament after a strong opening afternoon on the links at the 2014 MACJC State Tournament at Pine Burr Country Club in Wiggins.
The Tigers were in a tie with East Central for sixth place following day one of the event, but a strong push by Jones County on the second morning pushed Northeast to eighth place.
Northeast's football club claimed the runner-up position in the MACJC North Division for the seventh time in school history and the third occasion in four years during the 2013 campaign.
The Tigers carried a 4-5 overall record, but all five losses came to opponents ranked by the NJCAA at some point. Northeast was 4-2 in the MACJC North Division, which included back-to-back victories against Holmes and Northwest Mississippi Community College.
A pair of freshmen in Jamel Dennis (Oxford) and Marcus Robinson (Memphis, Tenn.) paced Ricky Smither's Tigers on defense with a combined 160 tackles. Dennis tallied the seventh most tackles in the entire country at 96.
Nettleton's Corbin White was the lone Northeast gridiron star to earn MACJC Player of the Week honors. He ran for 161 yards on 13 carries and cut down the sidelines for a 63-yard touchdown in a 30-9 victory by the Tigers against Mississippi Delta Community College in the season finale.
Eight men were named MACJC All-North Division for their part in the historical campaign. Kortilous Ellis (Charleston) and Mitchell Cunningham (Ecru) received first-team status while Chris Cooper (Madison), Dequinten Spraggins (West Point), Khalil Stinson (College Park, Ga.), Daniel Ross (Louisville, Ky.), Dennis and Robinson each grabbed second-team recognition.
Twelve Tigers signed scholarships to continue their careers at four-year schools. They include Martice Buckley (Missouri Southern State), Ellis (Arkansas Tech), Miguel Graham (Northwestern State), Parrish Huddleston (UAB), Nick Johnson (North Alabama), Gregdrecus Leland (West Alabama), Jeremy Liggins (Ole Miss), Razean Prather (Missouri Southern State), Jerrard Randall (Arizona), Spraggins (Murray State), Jaquille White (UT Martin) and Romia Wilson (Bethune-Cookman).
Northeast's tradition-rich basketball programs compiled a number of thrilling wins and moments during the 2013-14 season.
The Lady Tigers with coach Brian Alexander at the helm snapped a 10-game winning streak by Wallace State (Ala.) Community College at Hanceville with a 61-56 triumph inside Bonner Arnold Coliseum on January 9.
The Tigers delivered first-year headman Cord Wright's first MACJC North Division victory in exciting fashion. Northeast scored the final five points of overtime, four of them from center Al Azulphar (Norwalk, Conn.), to claim a 90-89 battle with Mississippi Delta.
Both squads had a positive ending to the campaign after sweeping Holmes on sophomore night. Hometown product Keldrick Lesley of Booneville scored a career-high 19 points to help the Tigers down the Bulldogs 68-67 while Antionette Riddle added 24 points to the Lady Tigers' 83-77 victory.
Belmont's Angelia Allen, who averaged a double-double from November 18-24, and Aushiana Ivy, who tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds against Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College on November 25, both earned MACJC Player of the Week on the women's side while Azulphar blocked 12 shots in a two-game stretch from November 18-24 to pick up the league honor as well.
Riddle reached double figures in 18 matchups in a row to conclude the year and was named to the MACJC All-State team alongside fellow Tupelo native Ivy. Riddle, who signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with Delta State University, compiled a total of 596 points in two seasons at Northeast.
Dimario Jackson (Brusly, La.), who topped the Tigers with 15.2 points per game and a field goal percentage of 41.5 as a freshman, also collected MACJC All-State prestige.
Karri Davis entered her second year as coach of the cheerleading squad, which continued to provide constant support for the Northeast football and basketball programs.
From pep rallies on Thursday afternoons in the fall to the final whistle inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum, Northeast's cheerleaders were on duty to encourage the home crowds to cheer on the Lady Tigers and Tigers.
Seventeen student-athletes received academic honors from either the MACJC or NJCAA for their efforts in the classroom during the 2013-14 school year.
Booneville's Allie Downs, who was one of only five women's tennis players in the nation to hold a flawless 4.0 grade point average (GPA), led the group while nine others notched NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards as well.
In addition, six of Northeast's eight sports that are sanctioned by the NJCAA garnered recognition as an All-Academic Team for maintaining a GPA above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.