Timaya Stewart ensured that the Northeast Mississippi Community College women’s basketball team would not suffer another heartbreaking playoff defeat for a second consecutive week.
Stewart’s last-second heroics sent the Lady Tigers to overtime with Southwest Mississippi Community College, where they eventually won 64-55 in the first round of the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament on Tuesday, March 7 at A.E. Wood Coliseum.
The Lady Tigers earned a rematch with Hinds Community College, who eliminated Northeast in the opening round of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Tournament, in the semifinals on Thursday, March 9 at 1 p.m. on the campus of Mississippi College.
This was the first victory at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament for the Lady Tigers since they won their last regional championship over Copiah-Lincoln Community College on March 9, 2006.
“We talked about never giving up and don’t stop playing until it’s over,” said Northeast head coach Brenda Mayes. “Before the game, I said we don’t just want to stay in the game physically. We want to stay in the game mentally and I think that was the key factor.”
Stewart was one of three double-digit scorers for the Lady Tigers with 18 points, but none were more important than the two she accounted for in the very last second of regulation.
The Lady Bears seemingly put the game out of reach for Northeast following a pair of free throws by Danyelle Lewis that increased their advantage to two possessions with only 19 seconds remaining.
But Aundrea Adams gave the Lady Tigers new life moments later. She completed an old-fashioned three-point play after being fouled on a layup that brought Northeast within 52-51 with 5.3 seconds showing on the clock.
The Lady Tigers quickly fouled on the ensuing in-bounds play and Alissa Adam made the second of two free throws in the double bonus. Northeast called timeout after the make and chose to advance the ball into its offensive side of the court.
The strategy paid off for the Lady Tigers after Stewart inbounded the ball to LaKeiya Lane. She in turned passed it back to Stewart, who drove down the baseline and laid it in with just four-tenths of a second left to tie the contest at 53-53.
“That’s the first time that we’ve ran that,” Stewart said. “I was just thinking I’m going to make this layup. I feel like after I made it, it just seemed like it was meant to be and that’s how we felt. Everything worked out very well.”
Northeast firmly had control of the momentum in the extra period. The Lady Tigers outscored state runner-up Southwest by an 11-2 clip in overtime and did not allow a single field goal during the additional five minutes.
Adams gave Northeast (16-9) its first lead since the one minute mark of the third quarter with an offensive rebound and putback only 43 seconds into the bonus session.
The Lady Tigers never relinquished their advantage from that instant. Northeast ended the matchup with a 7-0 run that featured two buckets from Stewart plus two key makes at the charity stripe from Jada Tubbs.
The matchup went back-and-forth all afternoon and included 13 separate instances in which the score was tied, including at the break when both squads battled to a 26-26 stalemate.
Tyra Tucker’s three-pointer put the Lady Tigers ahead for the first time in the second half with 4:03 to go in the third. Lane bumped that lead up to 38-35 with two free tosses.
However, the Lady Bears (18-9) pieced together an 8-1 spurt that pushed them up once again at 41-39 after three complete periods and set the stage for Northeast’s come-from-behind efforts in the final stanza.
Adams compiled her second straight double-double in the postseason. She posted a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds, which included six offensive boards, and four blocks.
“Our sophomores kept us up and in the game,” said Adams. “We pushed the ball and played hard on defense. It’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to what we have in store for the future.”
Wilbanks recorded the 20th double-double of her phenomenal career in the City of Hospitality with identical figures of 13 points and 13 boards. It was her 46th double-digit performance with the Lady Tigers.
Northeast outscored Southwest by a 36-22 margin on points in the paint. The Lady Tigers shot 35.8-percent from the floor, forced 21 turnovers and held a plus-six edge in total rebounding.
CUTLINE – Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Timaya Stewart looks to pass the ball during a matchup earlier this season with Northwest Mississippi Community College. Stewart tallied 18 points during the Lady Tigers’ 64-55 victory over Southwest Mississippi Community College on Tuesday, March 7 in the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College. (PHOTO: Michael H. Miller/Northeast Public Information)