'Euphoric': SCC Holds Rally to Celebrate National Championship
A spirit akin to Beatlemania reigned for more than an hour on the campus of Sandhills Community College on Wednesday.
Students, staff, faculty members and others gathered at the Dempsey Student Center to honor the players and coaches of the NJCAA championship SCC Flyers basketball team.
Last Saturday, the Flyers defeated the Cedar Valley Community College Suns of Dallas County, Texas, 101-86 to win the District III Men’s national championship. It was the first time a North Carolina team had ever won the title.
Cheering fans packed the student center at noon as school officials addressed the standing-room-only crowd. But the focus was on the players, who autographed basketballs, notebooks and copies of Wednesday’s Pilot, which featured a front page story on the team’s success.
Head coach Mike Apple praised his players, the coaching staff and team supporters for their efforts.
“I am very happy and very proud,” Apple said. “As a Moore County native, seeing all these people I have known for years who are out here celebrating our victory is extremely moving. This is a real community thing, and a great event.”
Apple said the players are “a team in every sense of the word.”
“These guys are together off court as much as they are together on,” Apple said. “They eat together, they have fun together, and some of them ride home together. Without doubt, they are truly brothers.”
Apple, who formerly coached the Pinecrest High School basketball team, praised the “great talent” of his players.
“I’ve coached high school and college basketball, and these guys are as talented as any I have seen. We’ve got players as good as they come in the state and in the nation,” he said.
Apple said that while he was “no Pat Riley” in terms of guaranteeing a repeat championship, the Sandhills legacy would continue.
“I promise Sandhills Community College basketball is on the map, and it’s going to stay there,” he said.
Sandhills media student Aaron Regan introduced the players to wild cheers and applause from the crowd, while “We Are the Champions” by Queen provided the musical theme.
Center Louis Craft, billed by Regan as the “Tower of Power,” expressed his awe at the number of supporters who turned out.
“I am overwhelmed,” Craft said as he spoke with well-wishers following the rally. “I knew some people were coming to the celebration, but I didn’t think it would be anything like this.”
Tournament MVP Daquain Towns, a graduate of Pinecrest High School, said he appreciated the outpouring of affection from those assembled at Wednesday’s event.
“Not too many of the others feel as much of the love as what I’ve received, since they are from out of the area,” Towns said. “It feels great.”
Sandhills terminated intercollegiate athletics in the 1980s before resuming the program in 2008. Susanne Adams, the former vice president of student services and academic support at the time, was instrumental in getting the athletics program started. Currently the president of Brunswick Community College, Adams visited the campus for Wednesday’s event.
“I’m euphoric now, but four years ago we wondered if it was the right time to reinstate the program,” she said. “We heard from high school students and others that athletics was what they wanted, and moved forward based on the evidence that this was the right thing to do.”
One fan in attendance was 6-year-old Jackson Hill, who had his basketball autographed by the entire team.
“They shoot a lot, and I like that,” Jackson said. “I want to be a basketball player too.”
Jackson’s mother is Laura Hill, chairwoman of the SCC psychology department.
“We have all followed the team, going to some of the games and watching the playoff games on the computer,” she said. “A few of the players are in my classes, and Jackson has been able to meet them. He and his older brother are really into Sandhills basketball.”
The celebration continues Saturday with a parade beginning at 11 a.m. in downtown Southern Pines. Players will ride in convertibles from the parking lot of the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church at North Ashe Street and East Vermont Avenue to the basketball courts of Southern Pines Downtown Park, where a meet-and-greet event will be held.
Contact John Lentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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