Denzel McDuffey showed out in what was his inaugural appearance with the Northeast Mississippi Community College men’s basketball team and his first game in well over a year.
McDuffey scored 21 points to help the Tigers defeat Faith (Ark.) Prepatory Academy in their season opener 109-64 on Monday, November 6 inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
The Clinton High School graduate did not play as a senior because of transfer issues, but showed little rust during his return to the court for the first time since his junior campaign at Lanier High School.
McDuffey did a little bit of everything, including knocking down three treys and driving the lane for layups. He was 8 of 13 from the field overall and also tallied five rebounds and four steals to go with his game-high point total.
“To be out there tonight, it was great. Just like a dream come true,” said McDuffey. “I just had to play hard and go produce for my team. It was just a good team win. My coaches on the sideline told me to keep on competing.”
McDuffey accounted for the first points of the campaign for Northeast with a basket less than one minute into the affair. He also gave the Tigers their initial lead of the matchup at 9-8 following a three-pointer that was assisted by Bryant Givens.
Faith Prep (1-4) kept the game within two possessions for a majority of the first half, but Northeast began to pull away with around nine minutes left before the intermission.
Conner McKay found his groove and made consecutive three-pointers to give the Tigers a 23-12 advantage with 8:41 to go before halftime. He ended the first outing of his sophomore year with 14 points and four assists.
“We came out a little sluggish there, but it’s the first game of the year so we kinda expected that,” McKay said. “I hit a shot or two there and once we got that little rust off we were fine.”
Northeast extended its lead to 30-14 at the 6:34 mark after free throws from JaQuante Bell, Brandon Mills and Bryce Smith. A big 10-0 run late in the opening half that featured two treys by Givens propelled the Tigers into the locker room ahead 53-24.
Thomas Cain helped Northeast expand upon its lead by scoring 12 of his 17 points in the second half, including back-to-back connections from beyond the arc that made the score 73-35 with 14:12 to go.
The Tigers (1-0) had a pair of dunks after the break. Josh Jackson recorded the first with a two-hand slam while Smith followed his act with a nice finish off a sweet pass from Antares Gwyn.
Caleb Henry pushed Northeast across the century mark with a make from long distance with 3:33 remaining in the contest. It is the first time for the Tigers to score over 100 points in a season opener since doing so versus Baton Rouge (La.) Community College on November 2, 2015.
“I thought all-in-all we competed and played hard,” said Northeast head coach Cord Wright. “We made some silly mistakes. Typical first game stuff, but we shared the ball really well and I thought we set the tone on the glass.
“I think we can be a good rebounding team because our guards and our smaller forwards can go and rebound. Everything kinda settled in and we got going and it was good to see.”
Givens rounded out the list of four double-digit scorers for Northeast with 12 points. He was solid all the way around with a game-high eight assists plus six rebounds and two steals.
Every Tiger that dressed out scored against the Warriors. Northeast also outrebounded Faith Prep by a sensational 70-36 margin with Gwyn and Mills topping that effort with 10 boards apiece.
The Tigers shot 43.8 percent from the floor overall and were even better from behind the arc with a 46.9 percent showing. Northeast had 25 assists on its 35 made buckets on the evening.
Northeast continues its four-game home stand to begin the season on Thursday, November 9 against Lawson State (Ala.) Community College. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the Booneville campus.