Flyers Advance to District Action
The Sandhills Community College basketball team took care of business in a dramatic way at last weekend’s Region X tournament.
Reminiscent of the buzzer-beater by Daquain Towns in last year’s national tournament opener in New York, Isaac Lyerly made a mad dash up court and passed to T.J. Jones for a basket with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime. That gave the Flyers a 70-69 victory over Caldwell CC in Sunday’s championship game.
Wearing a mask as a result of a broken nose he suffered in practice on Thursday, T.J. Gill came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, including nine during a 14-4 second half run that helped the Flyers overcome a 10-point deficit.
“We have a whole lot of confidence,” Gill said of the final play that followed a pair of free throws by Caldwell’s Elijah Hampton and a time out with seven seconds remaining in the extra period.
It was Kermeriaz Harrington’s job to inbound the ball. His first option was Jones, who was covered. The second was Lyerly. The speedy guard had just enough time to push the ball across midcourt, draw defenders and find Jones open for the game-winner.
“It was the same play, the same design as the one Daquain ran,” Gill said. “It wasn’t as perfect, but it worked as well.”
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 in Wentworth that begins on Friday.
“The first game was about business and the second game was about pride and winning another banner,” Flyer coach Mike Apple said of the weekend success.
The district tournament is the final step toward the Flyers gaining a chance to defend their 2012 NJCAA Division III title at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., on March 14-16.
The Flyers will meet Region XVII tournament champion West Georgia Tech (17-15) at 7:30 p.m.
Caldwell (19-12) and Anne Arundel (Md.) (14-14) face off at 5 p.m.
The winners meet on Saturday for the district title.
The Flyers came into the Region X championship game averaging a No. 1 in the nation 100.7 points per game, but were behind Caldwell 29-27 at halftime. Later in bigger trouble, trailing 45-35 with 13 minutes remaining in the game, they were rescued by their masked man.
Gill, who had first sparked the team with eight points in the first half, was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws. He went on to score six more points during the 14-4 run that helped tie the game at 49-49.
Trailing by four with less than two minutes remaining, some big defensive stops and two baskets inside by Raheem Washington tied it up again at 57-57 at the end of regulation.
A putback and then a three by Lyerly gave the Flyers a 68-63 lead with 1:20 left in the extra period. But with seven seconds remaining, the pair of free throws by Hampton put the Cobras in front 69-68, leading up to the heroics by Lyerly and Jones.
Washington finished with 15 points apiece, Lyerly chipped in with 14 and Harrington with 13.
Of the four teams playing for the national tournament berth this weekend, only Caldwell won a regular-season title. The Flyers finished second. The other two teams were lower seeds that pulled upsets to win their tournaments.
West Georgia appears to be a guard-oriented team that is similar in size to the Flyers.
“The second-year players are motivated by building a tradition and I think the freshmen are getting into that too,” Apple says of his squad. “I think Caldwell and Sandhills have a good chance to advance.”
The Flyer season would have ended with a loss on Saturday.
The less than artistic game against Davidson 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.
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.”
Other double-figure scorers for the Flyers were Lyerly with 14 and T.J. Jones with 12.
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