Fulton, Miss. - A furious come-from-behind attempt fell just short for the Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team in its postseason opener.
The Tigers lost 67-63 to Jones County Junior College in the quarterfinals of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Tournament on Monday, February 22 at the Davis Event Center.
The Bobcats, who were the MACJC South Division co-champion, entered the locker room with a 12-point advantage and expanded it following the intermission using back-to-back baskets from Bruce Stevens.
Leroy Buchanan got Northeast back to just two possessions shy of Jones County's lead using two straight buckets at the 16:21 mark. That started a stretch that lasted for the next eight minutes where the Bobcats went up by double-digits only to see the Tigers once again slice into their deficit.
Kendarius Smith officially started the comeback effort by Northeast with 6:55 showing on the scoreboard using an old-fashioned three-point play. He drained a trey moments later to make the score 55-49 in favor of Jones County.
Kendall Stafford's third connection from beyond the arc brought Northeast even closer at 62-61. The Tigers then took their inaugural lead with 1:15 remaining in the game using two true shots from the charity stripe by Harris.
However, Jones County was not behind for very long. Tristin Walley was fouled while driving the baseline on the Bobcats' ensuing turn with the ball and utilized the double bonus to leap ahead 64-63 with only 53 seconds left in the matchup.
Northeast had two chances to tie or take the lead as time counted down. But a turnover plus a contested layup that did not fall into the hoop allowed Jones County to run out the clock and eliminate the Tigers.
"I give the credit to our guys for competing in that second half," said Northeast head coach Cord Wright. "I don't think we ever gave up. I thought we defended well enough to win."
The two squads participated in a tight first seven minutes during the opening period. Harris and Stafford accounted for the initial seven points for the Tigers during that span.
The Bobcats held as big of an advantage as 29-15 after two treys in a row from David Davis and Rickey Holden. Tray Lawson's basket in the paint that was assisted by Antonio Dodson cut Jones County's edge to 32-20 at halftime.
Harris recorded the sixth double-double of his stellar freshman campaign. He amassed a game-best 22 points and matched a career-high with 15 boards in his first playoff outing at Northeast.
"We did good staying together and fighting hard, but we didn't do enough," said Harris, who won four prep state championships at Callaway High School. "We've gotta keep our heads up and get back to work in the gym."
Stafford notched his second consecutive double-figure performance with 15 points and six rebounds. Smith was solid as well for the Tigers with eight points and a career-best eight assists.
The result is nearly the exact opposite from when these programs met under the same circumstances one year ago. Northeast defeated the Bobcats in the first round of the 2015 MACJC State Tournament on the campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College by a final score of 67-62.
The Tigers have qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament. Northeast begins the competition on Thursday, March 3 at Mississippi College's A.E. Wood Coliseum with its opponent and game time still to be determined.