The Sandhills Community College basketball team qualified for the NJCAA Division II national tournament by defeating Pasco-Hernando State College 97-87 in a Region 10/South Atlantic District semifinal game at The Hangar on Thursday.
Savion Staton led the Flyers with 26 points in the victory over the Region 8 Bobcats from New Port Richey, Florida. Dharyus Thomas contributed 23 points off the bench in just over 16 minutes of action, and Derreco Miller was credited with 14 points, 11 rebounds and blocked five shots.
The No. 7 nationally ranked Flyers (19-3) will meet No. 2 Davidson-Davie CC (19-2) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Thomasville for the tournament title. The Storm defeated Catawba Valley CC 110-80 in Thursday's other semifinal game.
By finishing in first place in Region 10 in regular season play, the Storm had already qualified for the national event to be held in Danville, Illinois on April 20-24 as the South Atlantic A Champion.
As either the tournament champion on Saturday, or as the runner-up, the Flyers will receive the South Atlantic B Champion bid to the national tournament.
Corry Addison is one of four Flyer returnees from last season's Division III national championship team that will be making their second trip to a national event. But the point guard is not looking past Saturday's game against a Storm squad that defeated his team twice this season.
"I don't want to go there as a runner-up," the product of Fairmont High School said. "I want to win on Saturday and it won't feel the same if we lose and get to go. We want to continue to win to get there."
As the Region 8 champion, Pasco-Hernando State (7-13) came into the tournament as the third seed. Led by 16 points from Staton, including four treys, and a dozen points from Thomas with a pair of threes, the Flyers rode a 13-1 run into a 47-34 lead at the intermission.
But JaKeese Kemp and Warren McLymont, who finished with 27 points each, helped keep the Bobcats within striking distance throughout most of the second half. The Flyer lead had shrunk to 86-80 with 3:33 remaining, when the fourth trey of the game by Thomas, and a pair of free throws by Staton, upped the margin to a more comfortable 11 points.
"There was a lack of focus at times," Addison said. "We've got to buy-in on defense and continue to play hard no matter what the situation is."
Apple will be taking his team to a national tournament for the fifth time in his 10 years at Sandhills. The 2012 and 2020 teams won Division III national championships.
"We played well at times tonight and didn't play well at times," he said. "I was disappointed in the inconsistency. Pasco-Hernando had a lot to do with that. These teams are playing for their seasons now and you're going to get their best efforts.
"Overall I'm tickled Sandhills is going to the Division II national tournament. I think that's a great accomplishment for these guys, but let's focus on beating Davidson on Saturday and getting better at what we didn't do tonight. I think everyone in that locker room kind of gets the idea of what goes into a Sandhills-Davidson game."
Nine different players contributed to the Flyers' team total of 27 assists, including seven by Staton, five by Addison and four by Nasir Johnson. The team's 10 blocked shots were the second most in a game this season, including a pair each by Camron Zachary and Keegan Brayboy.