Flyers' Inside Trio Dominate the Paint
The Sandhills Flyers came into their national championship season confident they would be strong in the paint with the return of players like 6-foot-6 Markell Lotharp, 6-6 Erick Ewing and the addition of 6-10 Louis Craft.
Lotharp did his share of work inside while operating mostly as a wing. Craft, a product of Jack Britt, was the starting center backed up by Ewing, who prepped at East Montgomery.
A member of the NJCAA tournament staff at Sullivan County CC, where the national tournament was held, opined that Craft was the one player the other teams had no answer for.
At no time during the season did he and Ewing perform so well individually and as a tandem then when the team needed critical stops during the three games in New York.
One of those occasions was the overtime period in Friday’s semifinal contest against Bronx CC. A basket by Daquain Towns gave the Flyers their final points of the game and an 85-83 lead with 2:16 remaining. The Broncos inched to within one when Christopher Davis made one for two at the line at the 33-second mark.
The final four seconds of this game were even more excruciating for Flyer fanatics than the previous night when Towns’ bound-to-be-legendary buzzer beater saved the day. The Broncos had a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line and two chances to win the game from the field.
The first opportunity after the missed free throw was foiled by the flailing arms of Craft and Ewing, resulting in the ball going out of bounds. The clock was reset at O.8 and a final shot attempt glanced off the rim, followed by the Bronco coaches unsuccessfully alleging that goaltending should have been called on Craft.
The Flyers held the New Yorkers to just one field goal in nine attempts during the extra period to survive 85-84.
Ewing, whom Flyer coach Mike Apple once described after a regular-season game as a “secret weapon,” averaged six points and five rebounds coming into the national tournament. In the win over the Broncos, he scored a team-high 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots in 21 minutes of action.
Craft put in a grueling team tournament-high 33 minutes, scoring two points to go with a dozen boards, two steals and two blocks. Ewing’s three-game output averaged out to a double-double — 11 points and 10 rebounds. He and Craft combined to block a total of 21 shots.
“He’s filling up the stat sheet,” Apple said about Ewing after the semifinal game. “Hopefully, he’s got one more in him.”
The tallest players on the Cedar Valley College team really weren’t a factor as the Flyers rolled to the championship with a 101-86 victory on Saturday. The Flyer bigs combined to score 17 points, grab 14 rebounds and block six more shots.
The most vocal of the Flyer supporters during the season was Erick’s stepmother, Beverly Ewings. She and Erick’s dad, Derek, were plenty proud.
“Erick has done a spectacular job,” Beverly said before the final game. “He really brought the team with him last night when everyone else was in foul trouble. He had to pick up the slack.”
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