Flyers Advance to District Finals
Sandhills Community College had to fight off a furious second-half rally by Anne Arundel CC (Md.) Friday night to advance to Saturday’s District 7 championship basketball game in Wentforth.
Leading by 15 points at halftime, the Flyers fell behind by four points with just over nine minutes remaining in the game before steadying to pull out an 86-82 victory. Six-foot-10 Louis Craft led the winners with 15 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
The Flyers (26-6) had only Prince George’s CC (22-9) standing between them and a berth in next weekend’s NJCAA Division III national championship tournament at Sullivan County CC in New York.
The tall Owls from Maryland defeated West Georgia Technical College 85-83 in Friday’s earlier game. The two team’s were scheduled to meet Saturday afternoon for the district title at Rockingham Community College.
“They’re playing for a chance to go to New York just like we are so it’s going to be a heck of a game,” Flyers’ coach Mike Apple said afterward. “Physically I think they’re going to match up well with us.”
Against an Anne Arundel squad that didn’t start a player taller than 6-3, the Flyers enjoyed a big size advantage and took advantage of it early. Craft blocked four shots and Raheem Washington, a 6-4 forward, came off the bench to score 10 first-half points inside. But it was a barrage of threes that really separated the Flyers from the Pioneers.
Trailing 26-25 with just under eight minutes remaining in the half, Trevor Cole, T.J. Gill, T.J. Jones, Michael Collins and Raheem Jolliffe each connected from behind the arc during a 22-6 Flyer burst that made it 47-32 at the intermission.
The margin was a comfortable 57-42 with 15 minutes remaining when the Flyers fell into a swoon that went on to include 16 second-half turnovers and a bunch of second-chance baskets by the revitalized Pioneers.
“Any time you get a lead as big as we had, I think it’s natural to let down a little,” Apple said. “I think they (Arundel) kind of got the idea they could play with us and they did play with us.”
Kevin Eaglin, who scored a game-high 26 points, got the Pioneer comeback going with a pair of free throws. During one stretch they out-scored the Flyers 15-2 to take a 66-65 lead with 9:49 remaining in the game.
The Pioneers led 74-70 at the 5:20 mark when the Flyers, led by their big man, began making plays again at both ends.
“When it’s playoff time anything can happen,” Craft said. “It was a step-up opportunity. I wanted to be here for my team as much as they’ve been here for me all season.
“We didn’t want to go home so we got amongst ourselves and stepped it up.”
Markell Lotharp fed Craft for another dunk and Erick Ewing split a pair at the foul line, tying the game at 75-75. Then Craft put his team back in front with a pair of free throws.
The score was tied twice down the stretch before former Pinecrest star Daquain Towns roared down the lane and pulled up for a leaner from about eight feet that put the Flyers in front 83-81 with 42 seconds left in the game.
“Coach told me to attack the rim and I finally had some space, so I attacked,” he said.
Eaglin made one-for-two at the line a moment later, but with the 35-second clock turned off, the Pioneers fouled Huntley, who calmly sank two making it 85-82 with 15.7 ticks on the clock.
The Patriot guard then harassed Eaglin furiously as the Pioneer star tried to maneuver for a tying three. The ball was poked loose, Craft grabbed it and was fouled. He made one-of-two charity tosses with 1.8 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
“We pulled together when we had to, but we shouldn’t have let up like we did,” Towns said. “We let them back in it.”
Towns and Washington each finished with a dozen points and Huntley scored 10. Erin Senegal had 18 for the Pioneers. The Patriots finished with a 52-36 edge in rebounds.
“We turned the ball over entirely too much (26 total),” Apple said. “I really thought Louis Craft and Erick Ewing (six rebounds, three blocks) kind of determined the outcome of the ball game.”
Arundel 32 50 — 82
Sandhills 47 39 — 86
Arundel: Senegal 7 3-4 18, Eaglin 6 12-17 26, Colbert 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Freeman 6 0-0 12, Aorilia 2 0-0 5, Pierce 6 1-1 13, Dolford 4 0-1 8, Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 16-23 82.
Sandhills: Collins 3 0-0 9, Towns 5 2-2 12, Craft 5 5-8 15, Lotharp 2 2-2 6, Cole 1 1-2 4, Gill 1 0-1 2, Jolliffe 3 0-1 7, Huntley 2 6-7 10, Washington 5 2-4 12, Jones 2 0-0 5, Pride 0 0-0 0, Ewing 1 1-2 3. Totals 30 19-29 86.
Three-point goals: (A) 4 (Eaglin 2, Senegal, Aorilia); (S) 7 (Collins 3, Gill, Jolliffe, Cole, Jones).
More like this story