Flyers Play for National Championship Today
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UPDATED: 10 A.M.
One night after winning a game on a buzzer-beater, the Sandhills Flyers survived a harrowing final 1.8 seconds and made it to Saturday’s NJCAA Division III national championship game.
Bronx CC inbounded the ball twice in the final seconds of overtime, the second time with 0.8 seconds on the clock. A shot from the side by Claude Blue was swatted by the Flyers’ Louis Craft after it glanced off the rim, wrapping up an 85-84 victory.
The Bronco coaches responded furiously, calling for goaltending, but the officials quickly deemed the game over and headed away pursued by the angry New Yorkers.
“The ball hit the rim and I slapped it so nobody could get to it,” said the 6-foot-10 Craft, who along with 6-6 Erick Ewing helped hold the Broncs to one-for-nine shooting in the overtime. ”I knew the game was over, I knew it was over.”
The Flyers blew an 18-point lead with 16 minutes remaining in the game played at Sullivan County CC in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. The Broncos used eight second-half threes to make up the ground and send the game into an extra five minute period. Ewing led the Flyers with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Cedar Valley Community College (23-8) of Lancaster, Texas, an 83-76 overtime winner against SUNY-Delhi in Friday’s other semifinal, will be their 7 p.m. opponent.
The Flyers (29-6) are attempting to become the first team from North Carolina to win the NJCAA Division III national championship. Entering the title game the Flyers have won 10 straight and 14 of 15 games.
“We had a lot of things go our way last night,” Flyer coach Mike Apple said, referring to the game won over Brookdale CC (N.J.) on a floater by Daquain Towns as time expired.”Tonight things didn’t go our way, but luckily we persevered.”
A dark sign came early in two charging fouls called against Towns in the first four minutes of the game. Two minutes later Dre Huntley picked up his second. That seemed to unsettle the Flyers and they fell behind 20-13.
But Markell Lotharp and Towns led a rally that saw eight different Flyers score. They took a 25-23 lead on a putback by Towns. A three by T.J.Gill gave them a 46-35 lead at the intermission.
Four minutes into the second half, a three by Trevor Cole gave the Flyers their biggest lead at 57-39. Things went down hill fast from there.
“We got out of sorts and sometimes we start looking for my best shot instead of the team’s best shot,” Apple said.
A three by Ernest Quaye was the first of five over a period of four minutes as the Broncs cut the Flyer lead to 61-54. Lotharp and Huntley both had four fouls by now and Towns had three. The Flyers continued to hurt themselves with their decision-making on both ends and with 23 seconds remaining, the Broncs’ Ronnell Ross drove for the bucket that tied the game at 78-78.
Ewing and Craft both got their hands on Bronco shot attempts as time expired. It was knotted at 83-83 in overtime when Towns denied a Bronco fastbreak by blocking the shot. A moment later, with 2:11 left in the overtime, he wheeled into the lane and put his team in front 85-83.
With 33.5 seconds remaining, Christopher Davis missed an opportunity to tie the game when he went one-for-two at the foul line. Jolliffe missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Flyers turned the ball over leading up to the Broncos last chance to put the New York team in the championship game.
“Fortunately we got really good defensively in the last five minutes,” Apple said.”We know how to do it and we were forced to do it to win the ball game.”
Lotharp scored 15 points in just 17 minutes of action because of the foul trouble that has plagued him in both games. Towns and Jolliffe added 14 and 11, respectively. Craft led the Flyers with 12 rebounds. Thomas, who made five of the 11 Bronco threes, scored a game-high 25.
Cedar Valley, the Flyers championship game opponent, has plenty of size, and a skilled and speedy field general in 5-8 Jade Allen.
“I see a really athletic team with a style similar to what we’re used to,” Apple said. “I think it’s going to be a barnburner, I really do.”
Sandhills 46 32 7 — 85
Bronx 35 43 6 — 84
Sandhills: Collins 3 0-0 7, Towns 6 2-4 14, Cole 1 0-0 3, Craft 1 1-1 3, Lotharp 5 4-4 15, Gill 1 0-0 3 Jolliffe 5 0-2 11, Huntley 1 0-0 2, Washington 2 0-0 4, Jones 2 0-2 4, Pride 1 0-0 2, Ewing 7 3-4 17. Totals 35 10-17 85.
Bronx: Thomas 7 6-7 25, Quaye 6 0-1 16, Davis 3 5-8 11, Blue 9 2-5 21, Ross 4 2-2 11, Rodd 0 0-0 0, Ryner 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 15-23 84.
Three-point goals: (S) 5 (Collins, Cole, Lotharp, Gill, Jolliffe); (B) 11 (Thomas 5, Quaye 4, Blue, Ross),
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