The Sandhills Community College basketball team advanced to Thursday's semifinal round of the NJCAA Region 10 tournament with a 101-89 victory over Fayetteville Tech on Tuesday evening at The Hangar.
The second-seeded Flyers (18-3) led 85-84 with 3:22 remaining in a tense struggle when the first of two threes in a row by Savion Staton sparked a 16-3 run that broke the game open. The sophomore guard scored nine of his 20 points in the game during the decisive burst.
Freshman Bryan Quiller also scored 20 points for the winners. The Trojans' Collin Lewis poured in a game-high 29 points.
Coach Mike Apple's squad will host Pasco-Hernando State (7-15) of New Port Richey, Florida, the champion of the Region 8 conference, and the No. 3 seed, at 7 p.m. on Thursday. No. 1 seeded Davidson-Davie CC and Catawba Valley CC are the other semifinalists.
Thursday's two winners will meet in the championship game, hosted by the highest remaining seed, on Saturday at 2 p.m.
As in the Flyers' two previous wins over Fayetteville Tech this season, the outcome was in doubt until the closing minutes.
In this one, a 15-point first half by freshman Bryan Quiller was offset by 19 points from the Trojans' Lewis. The Flyers needed a three-point play by Derreco Miller in the closing seconds to take a 48-47 lead into the intermission.
The lead changed hands seven times in the first eight minutes of the second half. With the Flyers trailing 67-63, Keegan Brayboy fed Dharyus Thomas three times in a row for treys, helping turn the deficit into a 72-68 lead.
Thomas had made only one basket to that point and missed on several other 3-point attempts.
"My teammates have confidence in my shooting," the freshman said afterward. "I'm not saying I always take good shots, but good luck came to me and I hit some big shots at the right time. If I miss, I get back and play good defense."
With Quiller and point guard Corry Addison both in foul trouble, the visitors tied it up for the last time at 78-78 on a three by Donte Johnson with 5:29 remaining in the game. The Flyers led 85-84 at the 3:46 mark when Nasir Johnson fed Staton twice for threes.
The closing flurry also included a dunk by Miller, from Johnson, a steal that Staton turned into a basket for Brayboy and then a three-point play by Brayboy.
The threes by Staton brought back memories of the two he made in the closing minutes of the 93-89 victory over Mohawk Valley CC last March that helped make the Flyers the NJCAA Division III national champions.
"It felt kind of similar," he said thinking back to that game. "I was thinking that we just have to keep going hard. They're going hard and we have to go harder than they are."
Other double-figure scorers for the Flyers were Brayboy with 17 points, Miller with 16 and Thomas with 11. The leading rebounder was Miller with nine. Addison and Brayboy were each credited with six assists.
Apple was impressed with a Fayettevillle Tech squad (8-8) that was missing it's top scorer, Tyreik McCallum, due to a knee injured in the previous meeting between the teams.
One of the challenges facing the coaching staff over the next two days will be to develop some intel on Pasco-Hernando State.
"I give Fayetteville Tech all the credit in the world," the coach said. "They fought us tooth and nail and played a great ball game. Luckily we got some breaks when it counted toward he end.
"I loved the way Will Boyd came off the bench and helped us. Savion hit a couple of huge three-point shots that really gave us some cushion at the end."