Golden Knights End Flyers' Season
The Sandhills Community College basketball team’s bid to make it to New York and vie for another NJCAA Division III National Championship came to a screeching halt Friday night.
In the District 7 semifinal game played at Rockingham CC, the Flyers were worn down by a West Georgia Technical College squad that relentlessly and successfully attacked the rim. The Golden Knights erupted to score 67 points after the intermission, handing coach Mike Apple’s squad a 110-97 defeat.
Led by Randazerro Chaney and Alyja Hennings with 25 points apiece, the Golden Knights, now 18-15, made 55.8 percent of their shots from the field. Kermeriaz Harrington scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots for the Flyers, who finished with a record of 25-7.
T.J. Jones also had a double-double that included 16 points, 10 boards and four assists in the final games in a Flyers’ uniform for both.
In the earlier semifinal contest, K.J. Jones made seven threes in the first half to help ease the way for Caldwell CC in its 104-75 rout of Anne Arundel CC of Maryland. Caldwell and West Georgia were to meet at 3 p.m. on Saturday for the right to join the national tournament field of eight teams that begins play on Thursday.
“They (West Georgia) did a good job spreading the floor and taking it to the rim,” Apple said afterward. “We didn’t have an answer for it.”
During the first half there was a period that Golden Knights’ coach Niki Okolovitch was the one seeking answers. Harrington seemed to be swatting away every other shot his team put up. Mixed in with threes by Isaac Lyerly and Juwan Jones, the latter and T.J. Jones combined for three steals during a 12-2 run that gave the Flyers a 29-20 lead.
With the Flyer advantage cut to 45-43 at halftime, Okolovitch was feeling encouraged while Apple was concerned.
“They were up by two because we kept turning the ball over at mid-court and giving them layups,” the Knights’ coach said. “We told the guys that if we cut out five of the turnovers — we’re up by eight. We knew we were in the game.”
Said Apple, “We outscored them in the first half, but we were letting them score a lot. That gave them a lot of confidence.”
The game remained just that close until the 13-minute mark of the second half when a spin in the lane for two by the Flyers’ T.J. Gill tied the game for the final time at 66-66. With some break-away baskets mixed in, Hennings and Chaney did a lot of damage with their strong drives to the basket.
With eight minutes remaining, a three by Shaun Monk capped a 19-6 run that gave the Knights an 85-72 lead. The Flyers didn’t help themselves by going 2-for-9 at the free throw line during the rally. They got as close as 88-82 on a putback by T.J. Jones before the Georgians sealed it by going 11-for-16 at the charity stripe in the final three minutes.
“We’ve seen some really good teams that had players that could take the ball to the rim,” Apple said. “But their speed was a lot faster than we were playing at.”
According to Okolovitch, the Knights are trained for their style of play from day one by practicing in a gym heated to 100 degrees.
“Teams that slow it down are usually the ones that give us a problem,” he said. “Teams that want to pick up the pace — we’re going to be right there with them.”
Instead of the Flyers meeting Eastfield College of Mesquite, Texas, in a first-round game at Sullivan County CC in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., on Thursday, it will be West Georgia or Caldwell.
For all the Flyers, and the sophomores that played on two teams that helped compile a two-year record of 55-13, it was another successful season.
“The sophomores have helped put Sandhills on the map,” Apple said. “We’re going to break ground on a new gym in the next few days and one of the reasons is because of what these sophomores were able to accomplish. Hopefully the freshmen will take it upon themselves to move that tradition on and do something special next year.”
West Georgia 43 67 — 110
Sandhills 45 52 — 97
West Georgia: Wynn 8 5-6 23, Jones 3 0-0 7, Monk 4 2-5 11, Chaney 8 8-12 25, Hennings 11 3-4 25, Walker 4 0-0 8, Perry 2 1-1 5, Weeks 3 0-0 6. Totals 43 19-28 110.
Sandhills: Washington 5 1-2 11, T.J. Jones 7 2-6 16, Harrington 9 3-7 21, Cooke 3 0-1 7, Herring 2 0-2 5, Gill 3 1-3 9, D. Jones 1 0-0 2, J. Jones 4 0-0 10, Vinson 0 0-0 0, Lyerly 4 4-5 14, Cuthbertson 1 0-0 2, Cotton 0 0-0 0. Totals 39 11-26 97.
Three-point goals: WG 5 (Wynn 2, Jones, Monk, Chaney); SCC 8 (Gill 2, J. Jones 2, Lyerly 2, Cooke, Herring).
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