Members of the Sandhills Warriors are (front, from left) Malachi Ward, Kelvin Harrington, Ethan Tyson, Jaquan Goins, Griffin Booker; (back, from left) coach Robert Harrington, Javory Wall, Aiden Lyons, Will Ellman, Bradley Haskell, Zyron Frye, Noah Harrington and coach Garrye Chavis. Not pictured is Jacob Riley.

The Sandhills Warriors are on a drive for five this weekend.

After winning four tournaments in five weeks, the Warriors, a local boys’ 15-under AAU basketball team, are in Hampton, Va., this weekend competing in the Boo Williams Memorial Day Classic.

And the Warriors have already qualified for the AAU National Championships set to be held in Florida in July.

Qualifying for the nationals is old hat for the Warriors, according to program director Garrye Chavis.

Started 24 years ago, the Warriors have sent a team to the national competition every year of their existence.

“We’ve never missed the nationals,” said Chavis. “We’ve had some good teams, too. The nationals are always a showcase for college scouts.”

In fact, the Warriors won the 1996 16U Division 1 national championship and in 2017 they claimed the 13U Division III national championship.

This year’s team that has 12 players on its roster also has a shot at winning another title, said Chavis.

“Most of these players have been together for the last six years,” he said. “This is a good group of kids.”

Chavis, an Aberdeen native who started the program 24 years ago, said, “It’s not just about basketball. It’s about helping kids in life and how to deal with life’s situations. We also make them do their school work. We check their grades and if they aren’t doing well, they don’t play.”

The team is coached by Steve Tyson and Robert Harrington. Players include Bradlee Haskell, Aidan Lyons, Malachi Ward, Kelvin Harrington, Ethan Tyson, Jaquan Goins, Griffin Booker, Javory Wall, Will Ellman, Zyron Frye, Jacob Riley and Noah Harrington.

All the players are from Pinecrest except for Booker, who attends Union Pines.

The Warriors started the season by winning the Southern Showcase in Richmond, Va., following that up with a win in AAU Super Regionals held in Mooresville.

Then the Warriors proved they were the best in the state when they traveled to Greensboro, going undefeated in winning the AAU State Championships.

They defeated teams from Burlington, Fayetteville and Charlotte on the way to defeating the CSB elite squad from High Point 69-67 in the championship game.

Last weekend, the Warriors won the USBA State Championship in Raleigh.

The coaches all agree that the keys to the Warriors’ success are the defense, effort and team chemistry.

“Point to any name on that roster and you can say they contribute,” said Chavis.

Now, the Warriors are looking for contributions to help fund their trip to Florida for the nationals. They will spend almost a week, starting July 7, in Florida competing.

Chavis said the Warriors have received donations from local businesses and individuals, but they are always looking for more help with the expenses associated with the trip.

“One way or the other we always make it,” said Chavis, who can be reached at (910) 315-6315.

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