Booneville, Miss. – Natasha Jones gave the Northeast Mississippi Community College women's basketball program a lift when it desperately needed an offensive spark.
Jones helped the Lady Tigers end a lengthy scoreless streak and eventually beat Volunteer State (Tenn.) Community College 66-57 on Tuesday, November 17 inside historic Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
Northeast held a 21-15 lead after the first quarter following a stretch of 13 unanswered points. Christy Clark started the run with a basket and Dashiyah Agnew closed the spurt with a steal and lay in.
Agnew's bucket was the last by the Lady Tigers for over eight minutes. Kasey Sparks broke the drought that went from the 2:24 mark of the opening period until 4:02 remaining until halftime with a free throw.
The Lady Pioneers (1-4) scored 14 points during Northeast's dry spell. Lindsey Phillips connected on a three-pointer while Kendrea Duke had multiple field goals to lift Volunteer State to a 26-21 advantage.
Jones got the Lady Tigers back into the matchup with a critical trey that cut their deficit to one possession. She then gave Northeast a lead that it would not relinquish with a pair of shots from the charity stripe.
Jones extended Northeast's advantage to double figures midway through the third on another conversion from beyond the arc. Free throws from Timaya Stewart and a Farmer layup made the score to 52-41 in favor of the Lady Tigers entering the fourth period.
The Lady Pioneers came as close as 61-57 with 2:24 left in the contest after a make by Shelby Clay. But Jones put the matchup out of reach for Volunteer State when she drained a long distance shot from the far side of the court.
"I thought that we overcame a lot of adversity," said Northeast head coach Brenda Mayes. "We forced them into turnovers and that kept us ahead of the game. The shooting was a little off, but they continued to play defense."
Jones recorded her inaugural double-digit performance with the Lady Tigers. The Belmont High School alumnus had 14 points on four of eight shooting from the floor overall with five assists as well.
"I was feeling really good," Jones said. "I think I did well. I had been worried about not scoring like I used to, but I've got no more worries now."
Wilbanks tallied a team-high 17 points to guide Northeast. It was the fourth consecutive outing to begin her career with the Lady Tigers in which the Walnut native hit the double-figure plateau.
Calhoun City's Farmer added 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Lady Tigers. She was also one of five Northeast players that were perfect at the charity stripe on the evening.
The Lady Tigers held an outstanding minus-15 edge in turnovers after forcing the Lady Pioneers into 26 errors throughout the contest. Northeast turned those Volunteer State miscues into 29 points offensively.
The 11 turnovers committed by the Lady Tigers were their fewest since conceding 10 versus Wallace State (Ala.) Community College at Hanceville on November 7, 2013. Agnew topped a squad that had 16 total assists with six dimes.
(M) Northeast 100, Volunteer State 64
The Tigers were impressive in their final home contest during the opening month of the campaign. Northeast crossed the century mark for the third time this year after previously doing so versus Baton Rouge (La.) Community College and Bethel (Tenn.) University's junior varsity unit.
It is the initial instance in which Tigers scored 100 or more points in three games since the 2010-11 season when they did so against Coahoma Community College, Meridian Community College and Northwest-Shoals (Ala.) Community College.
Three straight buckets from the trio of Desmin Harris, Tray Lawson and Raheem Sorrell made the Pioneers burn a timeout and gave Northeast a lead that it would not relinquish less than four minutes into the matchup.
Davon Hayes was hot early in the contest for the Tigers. He knocked down a pair of treys and had a layup as well to direct Northeast to its first double-digit advantage at 18-8 with 13:50 showing on the clock prior to halftime.
The Tigers began to pull away from Volunteer State following back-to-back three-pointers from Harris. Two baskets in the post from Frank Roberts allowed Northeast to bring a 48-34 lead into the locker room.
A 10-0 stint close to midway through the period increased the Tigers' advantage to 71-43. Leroy Buchanan had seven points in that run by Northeast while Kendarius Smith was true from behind the arc.
Northeast outscored the Pioneers 10-2 in the last 3:05 to account for its margin of victory. Jack Nichols had six points in a row while a layup from Trey Potts got the Tigers into triple digits on the scoreboard.
"I thought we did a good job of setting the tempo early," said Northeast headman Cord Wright. "We have a bunch of guys that score and the most important thing is we spread the wealth."
Five Tigers concluded their respective nights in double figures. Wesley Harris and Hayes both entered the game as substitutes and finished in a stalemate with a team-high 14 points each.
It was a season-best for Hayes, who transferred from the University of Southern Mississippi and recently signed with Southeastern Louisiana University. He was 75-percent from long range and four of six from the field overall.
"We've got a lot of talented guys on our team so sometimes it's easy for me to sit back," Hayes said. "It's exciting to watch, but then again you've got to stay aggressive and you can't let that factor in."
Buchanan and Sorrell notched 12 points apiece as well in Northeast's winning effort. Lawson completed the list of double-digit standouts with 11 points for the Tigers (4-1).
Lawson had one of several highlight reel plays for Northeast against Volunteer State. He drove the lane for an uncontested one-hand slam dunk that sent the home fans into a roar.
"As long as the crowd goes wild, that's all that matters," said Lawson. "I think we've got a very athletic team. Everybody plays above the rim. A high flying team is a good one."
It was the inaugural triumphs in program history over the Lady Pioneers and Pioneers. Both Northeast ball clubs fell in the first-ever meetings between the two institutions one year ago.
The Lady Tigers and Tigers return to action on Tuesday, November 24 at Motlow State (Tenn.) Community College. Tipoff of the women's contest is 5:30 p.m. with the men's matchup immediately after the conclusion of the opener at Copperweld Arena.