Tallahassee, Fla. – Northeast Mississippi Community College's basketball programs are interrupting their holiday break a bit earlier than normal to participate in one of the most elite tournaments in the country.
The Lady Tigers and Tigers will travel to the Sunshine State to play in the Tallahassee Democrat Holiday Classic from December 29-30 at the Bill Hebrock Eagledome.
Northeast's women begin the competition against Northwest Florida State College at noon CST. The Tigers take the floor immediately following at approximately 2 p.m. CST versus Pensacola State (Fla.) College.
Both Northeast teams then close the tournament by meeting host Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College on the day before New Year's Eve with a 1:45 p.m. CST start for the ladies contest.
All four Northeast games will air live and in high definition on NEMCCTV. Tune in to Jody Presley and Carter Smith, the Voices of the Tigers, for the pregame show 15 minutes prior to tipoff by visiting www.nemcctv.com on any computer, tablet or smartphone.
It is the first neutral site regular season tournament for Northeast since both units took part in the Coca-Cola Classic at Southwest Mississippi Community College from November 18-19, 2013.
The Tigers were 3-2 last season in contests played at a nonpartisan venue. The matchup with the Lady Raiders will be the first neutral floor game for Northeast's women since defeating Southern (La.) University at Shreveport in the aforementioned Coca-Cola Classic.
Northeast head coaches Brenda Mayes and Cord Wright agree that placing their respective squads on a national stage against a pair of traditional powerhouses from the panhandle is pivotal with the full conference schedule looming over the next two months.
"The teams that we're playing against are good," Mayes said. "We've got to be prepared when we go down there. I'm hoping it's going to be a positive trip for us. It's going to be a true test."
"It's going to be a tremendous opportunity," echoed Wright. "All this type stuff prepares us for what we're getting into in our league. Back-to-back games will let us see what kind of toughness we've got and challenge our guys on the bench to respond. We'll see how it comes out."
The Lady Tigers (5-3) have four players that average double figures at the midway point of the campaign. Timaya Stewart tops that group from the point guard position with 16.3 points per game.
LaKeiya Lane guides Northeast with 3.5 assists. She earned National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Player of the Week honors earlier in the year after scoring a career-high 31 points in a triumph at Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College.
Freshman Aundrea Adams is currently 12th in the country with a field goal percentage of 64.5. She produces 14.1 points with that efficiency and adds 7.8 rebounds as well.
Shelby Wilbanks has extended what has become a phenomenal career with the Lady Tigers into her sophomore season. She registers 13.9 points and has now accounted for 13 double-doubles at Northeast.
The Lady Tigers are second in the Magnolia State and 19th nationally with 18.5 offensive rebounds each outing. Northeast also accounts for 18.1 assists, which is third statewide and 20th in the NJCAA.
The Tigers, who continue to receive votes in the latest NJCAA Division I rankings of the campaign, are coming off an impressive 104-95 victory at Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College.
Leroy Buchanan has become the go to man for Northeast. The Murray State (Ky.) University signee averages team-highs of 19.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks at the halfway mark of his sophomore year.
Kendarius Smith, who alongside Buchanan is a returning starter from the 2016 NJCAA Region 23 championship squad, follows with 13.8 points and a solid 74.4 free throw percentage.
Northeast is holding its opponents to a 26.3 three-point percentage, which is fourth lowest in the nation. The Tigers themselves are among the 30 best units in the NJCAA with 9.4 made treys per game.
Each of Northeast's foes on the women's side are nationally ranked. Northwest Florida State appears at No. 14 in the newest NJCAA poll while Tallahassee checks in at No. 11.
Jade Lewis and Britney Snowden pace the Lady Raiders (11-2) with 12.6 and 11.6 points, respectively. Jas Hill is second in the country with 22.4 points for the Lady Eagles (13-1), who are currently on a 10-game winning streak.
The Pirates (9-4) are led by Cameron Allen's 15.8 points and 3.7 dimes. David Simmons heads the Eagles (15-1), who are No. 9 in the NJCAA's rankings, and their efforts with 13.9 points.