Booneville, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College men's basketball team sent its fans home happy on the opening night of a new season for the fifth consecutive year.
The Tigers got the 2018-19 campaign underway with a 95-76 victory over Faith (Ark.) Preparatory Academy on Tuesday, November 6 inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
Northeast, which is ranked No. 25 by Street & Smith's in its preseason national poll, led from start to finish against the visiting Warriors. Semaj Matthews won the opening tip and on the Tigers' second possession scored the first points of the season on a short jumper.
Denzel McDuffey got the crowd roaring with Northeast's inaugural dunk of the year. He took an alley oop pass from Antares Gwyn and slammed the ball through the hoop with two hands at the 16:29 mark of the first half.
The Tigers also showcased their athleticism with several exciting blocks. Northeast swatted 11 Faith Prep shots, which was its most in a single game since recording 14 blocks in a win at Gadsden State (Ala.) Community College on November 4, 2013.
Jalen Perkins paced that effort for the Tigers with four blocks, including a crowd-pleasing swat with 13:10 remaining before halftime. He chased down the Warriors' Marquise Brown on a fast break and blocked his layup attempt from behind.
JaQuante Bell transitioned Perkins' sweet play into points on the opposite end. His lay in that was assisted DeAnthony Tipler capped the thrilling sequence and put Northeast ahead by double digits at 22-11.
Northeast expanded its lead to 62-42 quickly following the break on a pair of free throws from Matthews plus a coast-to-coast layup by McDuffey, who is a reigning Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State selection.
Faith Prep (0-2) cut its deficit to 72-56 with 11:39 to go in the contest after Will Edwards made two free throws. But the Tigers responded with a 9-0 run that ended any thoughts of a comeback by the Warriors.
Gwyn got the surge started with a three-pointer and Tipler added a make from beyond the arc as well. Northeast also held Faith Prep scoreless for nearly four minutes during this stretch.
"I'm excited we won, but we'll get even better," said Tigers head coach Cord Wright. "We missed a bunch of layups. Whether that's first game jitters or whatever the case might be, we're going to get back to work and correct that."
Six freshmen made their Northeast debuts versus the Warriors, including starters Daryl McElrath, Matthews and Temple. All 11 Tigers that saw action got into the scoring column.
Bell registered a team-best 16 points for Northeast, which had four total players reach double figures. McDuffey followed closely with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Hayes began his sophomore campaign with a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds. Tipler filled the stat sheet with 10 points and team-highs of seven assists plus five steals during his first appearance with the Tigers.
"It felt great to be out there with those guys," Tipler said. "I had watched them last year, but now I'm able to fit into the team and make everybody around me better. I believe this team can do a lot on down the road. We've just got to work harder and tighten up on defense."
Northeast forced the Warriors into committing 30 turnovers. The Tigers compiled a 42.3 shooting percentage with 19 assists on 33 field goals and connected on 20-of-30 attempts at the charity stripe.
The Tigers return to action with a trip to Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College on Monday, November 12. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 7:30 p.m. at the Pickel Field House.