SCC Squeaks By 'Sanford Six'
The odds were solidly stacked against a Central Carolina Community College basketball team that brought six players to Thursday’s game against the No. 6 ranked Sandhills Flyers.
Led by former Hoke County star Tim Haggie’s 33 points, the Cougars led 71-70 with five minutes remaining in the game on a three by another Hoke alum, Kentrel Black. The Flyers were clinging to a 79-78 lead with 21.8 seconds left when Devonte Herring went to the foul line for a one-and-one opportunity. The sophomore calmly sank both, and then four more in the closing seconds, as the home team eked out an 85-80 victory.
In a week that began with a home Region X conference loss to Caldwell County CC in overtime, the Flyers improved to 19-4 overall and 4-1 in the conference. The Cougars dropped to 8-13 and 0-4.
Flyers’ coach Mike Apple has watched his team that has been among the nation’s leaders in field goal percentage throughout the season, shoot poorly, and generally not be very efficient on offense, the last two games.
“Again, the ebb and flow of a basketball season can never be completely figured out,” he said afterward. “I wish I could. Right now we’re trying to figure out who we are again.”
Shortly before the tip-off at The O’Neal School’s Tate Gym, Hoke County basketball coach Kwame Patterson and members of his team arrived to support Haggie and Black. They were just in time to see Haggie score the first two of his 21 first-half points.
The game appeared to be going to form when a three by Isaac Lyerly gave the Flyers a 40-30 lead with about three minutes remaining in the half. But a shocking 17-1 run, that included a trio of Cougar treys and seven points by Haggie, put the Flyers on the short endof a 47-41 score at the intermission.
Haggie said he was inspired by the presence of the Hoke team, but also by something else.
“I’m a competitor and I used to play against coach Apple when he was at Pinecrest and only beat him one time in my career,” he said. “I was trying to make this another one.”
If the “Sanford Six” was destined to run out of gas against their deep opponent, there was little sign of it early in the second half. The defensive intensity of the Flyers’ was now at a fever pitch, but they were passing up open threes on offense and having trouble finishing close in against a packed in Cougar zone.
“We can do it,” was the attitude of the Cougar players, according to Haggie, “especially since we have our best six.”
Herring, who was nine-for-10 from the line, sank a pair to give his team its first lead of the second half at 54-53 with 13:58 left in the game. But by the 11:30 mark, the visitors were up 60-54 after another basket by Haggie.
Three buckets in a row by Michael Cuthbertson got the Flyers even at 60-60. A three by Black put the Cougars back in front as the lead changed hands five more times down the stretch. A clutch three by T.J. Jones put the Flyers on top 77-74 at the 1:54 mark. But four Cougar points in a row led up to Herring’s free throw tests with 21.8 seconds remaining and the one-point lead.
The last time Herring could recall being in a similar situation with the game on the line was as a senior at Wallace Rose Hill High School. It is a responsibility he says he embraces.
Coming back after sitting out the Caldwell game with a knee injury, he finished with 13 points and four assists. T.J. Jones led the Flyers with 16 points and also contributed 11 rebounds and five assists.
Kermeriaz Harrington’s ninth double-double of the season included 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Flyers made 35 percent of their shots from the field in the two games combined this week.
“The guys played hard at the end of the game,” Apple said. “Fortunately, we were good enough to pull it out at the end.”
The 6-foot-1 Haggie’s big night included nine rebounds, five assists and six steals. Black finished with 13 points and 11 boards.
According to Patterson, the evening was a treat for his high school players.
“It’s a great environment,” he said. “Getting a chance to watch a Sandhills team that won a national championship last year and seeing the athleticism and quickness in the college game, was great for our guys.”
The Flyers travel to Louisburg (20-1) on Saturday to meet the No. 1 NJCAA Division II team that defeated them in December. Louisburg suffered its first loss, 75-73, at home against Wake Tech on Wednesday.
Central Carolina 47 33 — 80
Sandhills 41 44 — 85
Central Carolina: J. Harrington 2 2-3 6, Burnette 6 4-4 19, Haggie 13 5-7 33, Harris 2 1-2 6, Black 5 0-2 13, Sbaiti 1 0-0 3. Totals 29 12-18 80.
Sandhills: Washington 4 0-0 8, Harrington 6 3-3 15, Gill 2 0-0 5, T.J. Jones 6 3-4 16, Cooke 1 0-1 2, Herring 2 9-10 13, Vinson 1 0-0 1, Lyerly 3 2-2 11, Cotton 0 1-2 1, Cuthbertson 4 0-2 8, Graham 2 0-0 4, D. Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 18-24 85.
Three-point goals: CC 10 (Burnette 3, Black 3, Haggie 2, Harris, Sbaiti); S 5 (Lyerly 3, Gill, T.J. Jones).
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