Flyers Claim Region Championship
T.J. Jones scored with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give Sandhills Community College a 70-69 victory over Caldwell CC in the Region X tournament championship game Sunday afternoon.
The Flyers (25-6) had already clinched a spot in next week’s District 7 tournament with a 90-82 win over conference arch-rival Davidson County CC on Saturday in the event held at Catawba Valley CC. Caldwell (19-12) also advances to play in the four-team district tournament at Rockingham CC that begins on Friday.
Coach Mike Apple’s squad will try to win that tournament and gain an opportunity to defend its 2012 NJCAA Division III title at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. on March 14-16.
Trailing Caldwell 45-35 with 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Flyers were rescued by a masked man. T.J. Gill, who suffered a broken nose in practice on Thursday, was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws. He went on to score nine points during a 14-4 run that tied the game at 49-49.
Tied 57-57 at the end of regulation, a put-back and then a three by Isaac Lyerly gave the Flyers a 68-63 lead with 1:20 left in the extra period. But with seven seconds remaining a pair of free throws by Elijah Hampton put the Cobras in front 69-68.
After a Flyer time out Lyerly rushed the ball up court to Jones for the winning shot.
Gill, who seemed bothered by the mask on Saturday, finished with a team high 17 points. Kermeriaz Harrington and Raheem Washington scored 15 apiece. Lyerly chipped in with 14.
The Flyer season would have ended with a loss on Saturday. The win earned them one of the two district spots awarded Region X this year regardless of Sunday’s outcome.
Earlier Saturday, Caldwell advanced by defeating Wytheville CC. The less than artistic second game was a turnover fest with the Storm committing 33 to 29 for the Flyers.
“It was a game where the team that was going to make the most out of those turnovers was the team that was going to win the game,” Apple said.
Leading most of the way, a poor stretch left the Flyers trailing 53-48 with 13 minutes remaining in the game. Some good work by Lyerly at both ends of the court helped the Flyers build an 82-75 advantage with just over three minutes remaining. But four Storm points in a row made it 82-79 with 1:40 remaining.
That’s when Montre’l Cooke and T. J. Jones each sank a clutch pair at the foul line. Three blocked shots by Harrington in the final minute, two of them in the same sequence, helped sew it up.
“I always tell my guards, ‘don’t foul them, let them come by – I’ve got your back’,” the 6-foot-7 sophomore, who scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, said.
In spite of being limited to 17 minutes of action by foul trouble Washington led the Flyers with 23 points. Robert Story topped the Storm (23-7) with 20, including six treys.
“We’re glad to go in and get them out of the way,” Washington said of a Davidson team they were playing for the third time this year and for the sixth time in the last two seasons. “It was a tough game. We won one, lost one and had to go ahead and break the tie.”
The Flyer guards did a good job of holding Ace Chalmers, who scored 26 points in the Storm win to 10, although he did record 10 assists and six steals. Other double figure scorers for the Flyers were Lyerly with 14 and T.J. Jones with 12.
“I thought they (Storm) got tired and made a lot of errors,” Apple said of his team’s strong finish. “We lost the lead and lost our composure a little bit, but we regained it and just played real strong the last couple of minutes.”
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