“I feel like it will grow stronger and in future years I think it will contribute to Northeast,” Arnold said while serving as Northeast’s athletic director.
The legendary hoops coach could not have been more right. The Lady Tigers have claimed the school’s only national championship, three National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 titles, 10 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Tournament crowns and are 16-time North Division champs.
Now, the team that started what has become one of the Magnolia State’s most decorated programs on the hardwood is getting back together.
The 1973-74 edition of the Lady Tigers will hold a 40-year reunion on Monday, February 17 on the Booneville campus.
Ingomar’s Shirley White, one of 13 members of that squad, felt the time was perfect to bring a group of ladies that she described as being great teammates together again.
“It’s important to me that we renew those friendships,” she said. “We were sisters and because of that camaraderie we developed over that year with us being the first team and us setting that standard we became a close knit family.”
Women’s basketball as an intercollegiate sport was abolished by each of the state’s two-year colleges following the 1954-55 season.
Arnold resurrected the program that he had led as coach in the late 1940s and early 1950s and tabbed Millard Lothenore as the new headman of the Lady Tigers, or Tigerettes as they were called then.
Lothenore constructed a roster for that campaign comprised solely of individuals from Northeast’s local five-county district.
Joining White on the 1973-74 team were sophomores Cynthia Barmer (Alcorn Central), Janie Ham (Iuka), Janice Hancock (Myrtle) and Sue Love (Falkner).
Freshmen included Teresa Brawner (Kossuth), Cathy Hellums (Falkner), Regina Keenum (West Union), Sherry Leggett (Alcorn Central), Marina Pearson (Myrtle), Marilyn Prather (Ripley), Teresa Simpson (Myrtle), Becky Tate (Ingomar), Norma Wilbanks (Walnut) and White.
The Tigerettes won their initial game back from the 17-year hiatus at Meridian Community College on November 6, 1973 by a score of 58-53.
Northeast also beat Meridian with a 53-44 decision in its first home contest one week later and started the season on a six-game winning streak after a 60-57 victory over Northwest Mississippi Community College in December.
Current Northeast head coach Brian Alexander is eager to welcome these women back to the college and gymnasium that they called home for a period of one-to-two years.
“From my perspective, we’re always excited to welcome our Lady Tiger alumni back,” he said. “It’s just a great thing to reflect upon the success they had while they were here and to see how they’ve been productive citizens in our communities.”
All members of the 1973-74 team and their families are invited for this special event. A reception will be held on the third floor of Waller Hall, located directly across the street from Bonner Arnold Coliseum, at 4:30 p.m. on the 17th.
The squad will then be recognized at halftime of the Lady Tigers’ 5:30 p.m. matchup against Holmes Community College.
Photo Courtesy NEMCC
Members of the 1973-74 Northeast Mississippi Community College women’s basketball team, the first in 17 years, included (from left) Janie Ham, Sue Love, Becky Tate, Cathy Hellums, Regina Keenum, Teresa Simpson, Marina Pearson, Sherry Leggett, Cynthia Barmer, Shirley White, Marilyn Prather, Norma Wilbanks, Teresa Brawner and manager Jo Drewery.