NJCAA Notes: Pinecrest Pipeline
National Championship Story
To read Charlie Bergmann's account of the national championship game, click here.
One of the things Sandhills Community College basketball coach Mike Apple got to do when he succeeded SCC athletic director Aaron Denton this year as coach of the Flyers was reunite with two players he coached during his eight years at Pinecrest.
Daquain Towns was named the MVP of the NJCAA Division III national championship after the Flyers won the title with a 101-86 victory over Cedar Valley College of Lancaster, Texas, Saturday night at Sullivan County CC in New York. The 6-foot guard's coast-to-coast buzzer beater for a Flyer win on Thursday, and his play throughout the three games, captured the imagination of many basketball fans — in the stands, streaming live and on Youtube.
Towns, a sophomore, scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists in the championship game. In his senior year at Pinecrest he was the conference player of the year.
"I guess the pro level is where Daquain and I can hook up again," Apple joked. "He's going to be sorely missed."
Pride, one of the older Flyer players, was out of basketball after playing for UNC-Charlotte during the 2008-9 season. After scoring only two points in 10 minutes of action in the first two games, the 6-3 forward was a difference-maker Saturday with nine points and seven rebounds in 10 minutes on the court.
"Good timing, I guess," he said of his contribution. "It's part of being unselfish. The young guys are playing better so they get to play more. I was on today so coach kept going with it. I thank God for the opportunity to play for my old coach and finally get him a championship."
Good Sportsmanship: The Bronx CC coaches and players objected strenuously when goaltending was not called in the closing seconds of the semifinal contest won 85-84 by the Flyers. Later in the evening, they paid the Flyers a visit at the hotel.
"The entire coaching staff, their athletic director and some of their players apologized," Apple said. "It was something that happened in the heat of the moment. I thought it was a great thing that they did."
Class Act: By all accounts, the Flyer players represented their college and state very well. One of the men at the scorer's table described them as the most respectful and disciplined of the teams. Carrie Schoonmaker, a member of the staff at Sullivan County CC, was the team host for the Flyers and was looking every bit the fan as they made their march to the title.
"They're very polite," she said. "I've got my 10-year-old grandson with me. He idolizes basketball players and they've been very good with him. They've been very gracious to us."
Proud Parents: Parents of several players made the long trip to the Catskills for the tournament and will never forget the drama and the achievement. Michael Collins, father of Michael, a sophomore guard who was second on the team in threes (61) behind Raheem Jolliffe (67), attended the same high school as his son (Bunn).
"I was offered to play basketball at Louisburg College and at the time school was the last thing on my mind," he said. "I turned it down and regretted it later in my life. They say you can't live your dreams with your children, but in my case I'm doing that right now watching him.
"It's a lot more fun watching him succeed than anything I could accomplish."
Derek and Beverly Ewings, the father and stepmother of Flyer sophomore Erick, watched him increase his season averages of six points and five rebounds to a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds in the three games in New York. He scored a team-high 17 points to go with 11 boards in Friday's win over Bronx CC when a number of his teammates were in foul trouble.
"Erick has done a spectacular job," Beverly said before Saturday's final. "He really brought the team with him last night when everyone else got in foul trouble. He had to pick up the slack."
Big Apple: In the locker room after Saturday's game, the players were advised they would be taking a trip to New York City to visit the Empire State Building and Times Square on Sunday. They are expecting to arrive home late that night. A national championship celebration, open to the public, will be held at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday in the Dempsey Center on the SCC campus, according to Denton.
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