The worldwide coronavirus pandemic shutting down the spring sports season may be the prevailing headline, but Northeast Mississippi Community College’s athletic department still had plenty to brag about during the 2019-20 academic year.
The men’s basketball program won the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) North Division championship while four teams earned national rankings during Northeast’s 71st year of intercollegiate competition.
The Tigers captured their second division title in four years while rising to as high as No. 17 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll. Northeast went 22-1 during the regular season and did not lose inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
Cord Wright’s Tigers rolled through the fall semester unbeaten with seven of their 10 outings featuring a double-digit margin of victory. Northeast won its first 15 games before suffering a heartbreaking six-point defeat at Mississippi Delta Community College in late January.
However, the Tigers got back on track quickly with seven consecutive wins by an average of 20.3 points to conclude the regular season. Northeast wrapped up its division crown with a 74-60 road triumph over East Mississippi Community College.
The Tigers posted a season-best 131 points against Martin Methodist (Tenn.) College’s junior varsity squad in early December. That was the most points scored by Northeast in a single matchup since beating Pearl River Community College 138-135 in 1997.
DeAnthony Tipler (Ashland) became the 18th NJCAA All-American in program history after leading the Magnolia State in scoring with 20.4 points per game. Fellow sophomores Isaac Chatman (Jasper, Ala.) and Jalen Perkins (Walker, La.) joined Tipler on the MACCC All-State listings.
Four Tigers advanced to four-year institutions, including Jayven Humphrey (Tupelo) to Jackson State University, Chatman to the University of North Alabama, Perkins to Louisiana State University at Alexandria and Tipler to Coastal Carolina (S.C.) University.
Another top story was the opening of Northeast’s multi-million dollar “Field of Dreams” complex. Among its features are a new locker room, indoor hitting and pitching facility, press box and the only video boards on a baseball or softball facility in the MACCC.
A capacity crowd filled the stands at the “Field of Dreams” for a formal ribbon cutting ceremony on February 1. President Dr. Ricky Ford and athletic director Kent Farris were among the keynote speakers at the event.
Veteran coach Jody Long and the softball team officially broke in the facility on February 8 with a sweep of visiting Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College by scores of 11-0 and 7-5.
Alexis McGreger (Holly Springs) had Northeast’s first hit at the “Field of Dreams” with an infield single in the first inning of game one while Hannah Milhorn (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) delivered the inaugural home run with a solo shot three frames later.
The baseball program, which is under the watch of Richy Harrelson, followed suit on February 11 in their debut at the new stadium with a pair of 5-1, 7-1 triumphs over the same opponent.
Landon Wilkerson’s (Southaven) double down the left field line served as the initial hit at the “Field of Dreams” in the third inning of the opener. Conner Davis (Booneville) added the first homer in the sixth with a two-run blast over the left field wall.
What followed was a pair of stellar, but unfortunately abbreviated, campaigns for the baseball and softball teams. The two squads combined for a 26-5 record on the strength of their pitching staffs.
Baseball compiled an overall earned run average (ERA) of 3.02 while softball tallied a similar mark of 3.24. Three hurlers from the baseball program, including JT Durham (Memphis, Tenn.) and Chase Kessinger (Oxford) to the University of Memphis (Tenn.) and Nik Wilcher (Corinth) to Blue Mountain College, all signed scholarships.
Cole Phillips (New Albany) led the state and finished in a stalemate for second in the country with five wins while Peyton Harris (Ramer, Tenn.) tied for first in the MACCC with three saves. Phillips’ 1.13 ERA was third best in the league among qualifying pitchers.
The Tigers were dynamic on defense with a .969 fielding percentage, which was knotted for seventh in the NJCAA and tops in the state. Hayden Scarbrough (Corinth) guided that effort with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 101 total chances from behind the plate.
Eight of softball’s 13 contests were decided by two runs or less, including all three matchups during Northeast’s annual TigerFest Tournament. The Tigers also pieced together two walk-off wins as well.
Northeast plated four runs in the final frame to beat Calhoun (Ala.) Community College. The seventh inning started with back-to-back homers by Macy Busby (Burnsville) and Katelyn Matthews (Pontotoc) before Milhorn’s RBI single completed the comeback.
The Tigers pulled the same trick against Hinds Community College when Alex Melton’s (Columbus) double into the left-centerfield gap brought home Brooke Baker (Hernando) and Anna Beth Lucius (Vardaman) to enforce the eight-run rule in the sixth inning.
Ayriana Stoneback (Reeltown, Ala.) tied for first in the NJCAA with three saves. She had a 5-3 record with 44 innings of action in the circle and six complete games, which was deadlocked for most in the MACCC.
All three spring sports teams at Northeast obtained national rankings when including golf. Baseball and golf checked in at No. 9 and No. 15 in their final polls, respectively, while softball rose to No. 19 following a 5-0 start.
Dylan Moulton (Elba, Ala.) received MACCC All-State laurels on the links after finishing eighth in the conference with an average score of 75.67 shots per round. He recorded a season-best 150 over two rounds at Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Raymond.
Moulton was one of three golfers under coach Derek DeVaughn to claim a top 100 individual ranking in NJCAA Division II by Golfstat. He checked in at No. 51 while Carson Wilder (Corinth) and Jake Kilcrease (Brantley, Ala.) appeared at 59th and 65th, respectively.
Greg Davis and the football team joined softball in having a flare for the dramatic. All but two of the Tigers’ nine contests were decided by less than 10 points, including five games determined by just one possession.
Northeast opened the campaign with an overtime triumph over Southwest Mississippi Community College. Shawn Dalton Weatherbee (Booneville) provided the game-winning one-yard touchdown run while Michael Baugus (Corinth) sent the matchup into the extra period with a 31-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers also secured a thrilling 14-12 decision over rival Itawamba Community College. D’Jordan Strong (Batesville) sealed the victory with an interception at the final horn while Kevin Hurley (Walnut) accounted for the winning points with a fumble return for a touchdown.
Six Northeast standouts garnered MACCC All-State honors, including offensive lineman Ja’Torrian Fuller-Jones (Montgomery, Ala.), defensive lineman Cedric Hillsman (Fort Valley, Ga.), tight end Marquis Johnson (Montgomery, Ala.), defensive lineman Darius Shipp (Olive Branch), punter Baugus and defensive back Strong.
Brenda Mayes and women’s basketball extended its run of sending at least one player to the NCAA Division I level to eight years after Da’Sha McGloster (Vicksburg) committed to Mississippi Valley State University.
MACCC All-State selections Dominique Caldwell (Vicksburg) and Tekeria Newson (Independence) also signed with Talladega (Ala.) College and Rust College, respectively. The duo combined to average 22.7 points and 11.6 rebounds.
Among the impressive performances by the Lady Tigers was a 24-point showing by McGloster in a victory over Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College and a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double for Newson in a win at Mississippi Delta.
Chasity Moore directed the cheerleading squad for the fifth straight year. Northeast’s cheerleaders consistently supported the institution by appearing at all home football and basketball contests plus at several other marquee on-campus activities.
Northeast also broke two scholastic school records when 50 individuals acquired MACJC Academic All-State accolades and 21 total young men and women obtained NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards.
Athletes with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA) were Carson Banks (Brandon) from football and Austin Shaw (Corinth) from golf.