Sophomore forwards Bryan Quiller and Zac Sledge combined to score 30 points in the first half, helping the Sandhills Community College basketball team turn an early 10-point deficit against Oxford Emory into a double-digit halftime lead.
The Flyers maintained that advantage for most of the rest of the way, grabbing a 98-84 victory and the Region 10 tournament title in a game played on Sunday afternoon at Central Carolina Community College.
Quiller, who was named Region 10 Player of the Year, finished with a team-high 25 points. Sledge poured in 18 and Joey McMullin added 15 points to the team’s dominance down low.
The win moves coach Mike Apple’s squad one step closer to earning a fifth bid in a row to the NJCAA National Championship scheduled to be played March 15-18 at Herkimer College in Herkimer, New York.
The No. 1-ranked Flyers, now 27-3, can earn one of eight automatic bids with a win over Region 20 champion Butler County in the Mid-Atlantic District title game scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at The Hangar. The No. 11-ranked Pioneers improved to 20-3 with a 99-88 victory on Saturday over Prince George’s. Four at-large bids will complete the national tournament field of 12 teams.
Afterward, Apple echoed a common theme throughout the Flyers’ winning streak that was extended to 15 games.
“I don’t think we played the way we needed to play for 40 minutes,” he said. “We did in spots and that was enough to put us ahead and keep us ahead. We’re always looking for that consistency.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-4 lead behind the inside scoring of 6-foot-7 Isaac Snyder, who went on to score 28 points. The Flyers took their first lead at 21-20 on a basket by Quiller off one of Jamori McDougald’s team-high eight assists. But the lead changed hands several times before a basket by McMullin put them in front for good at 34-32.
“We were relying on the threes too much in the early part of the game,” Quiller said. “I was concerned that we weren’t into it, but overall through the game we started attacking the hoop more and our shots started falling. The difference-maker was when we started attacking the rim.”
The final points of the half came on a basket by Sledge, off a pass from his roommate for the past three years, Quiller. Both picked up an extra year of eligibility courtesy of the COVID-19 ruling.
“I love that man to death.” Quiller said of Sledge. “It’s just the chemistry we have. We know where each other is going to be.”
Ryan Kim made five threes, including a four-point play in the process of scoring 22 second-half points, but the Eagles were unable to draw any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The 6-foot-9 Sledge, who scored a career-high 19 points in his previous game, continued to show improvement in all phases of the game. And he and his roommate have been seeing more time on the court together in recent games.
“I guess I’m just finding my groove, getting comfortable, getting more minutes,” Sledge said. “With us being roommates for so long we’ve got some chemistry and when we’re in there together it just makes us play harder.”
Apple added: “Bryan is really good at this time of year. He’s super quick. I just hope he keeps it going. Zac gave us a big, big lift off the bench with timely shots and I thought he played good defense on No. 34 (Snyder).”
Something will have to give on Saturday against a Butler squad that has won 10 games in a row. The Pioneers are led by guards Derrick Anderson and Kevaughn Price, each averaging 21.8 points per game. Anderson recorded triple-doubles in back-to-back games earlier this month. Jason Baker, 6-9 forward, averages 16.1 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Quiller (12-for-15), Sledge (9-for-12) and McMullin (7-for-13) were a combined 28-for-40 on shots from the field (70 percent). In addition to Quiller, McMullin and LeNijel Robinson also earned Region 10 honors. McDougald, Chad Kinch and Ayden Gittens were all-freshmen team selections.