With just over seven minutes remaining in Saturday's basketball game at the Hangar, Devian Smith drained a three to extend the Sandhills Flyers' lead over Oxford Emory to five points.
Moments later, the 5-foot-8 freshman from Charlotte won a ball in a crowd near the Oxford basket. He flipped it to Chase Morrisette-Barnett who raced the length of the court and scored on a bang-bang play as he was fouled.
The three-point play gave the Flyers a 10-point lead on the way to an 89-78 victory that erased some of the sting from three recent losses in games where they surrendered late leads.
"It was definitely a big play," Morrisette-Barnett said afterward. "I almost turned the ball over, but once I got through the defense I saw a lane and thought I'd take it to the rim. And thankfully, I got the "and one".
The Flyers improved to 3-3 after winning both games in the Flyer Invitational that completed the team's six-game season-opening home stand. They travel to Jamestown for a 7 p.m. date with Guilford Tech (2-1) on Wednesday. The visitors from Oxford, GA dropped to 4-1.
In the game prior to Friday night's win against New River CC, the Flyers blew a 12-point lead with under two minutes remaining against Lenoir CC and went on to lose in overtime.
"I think it's always about confidence and learning how to finish," Flyers' coach Mike Apple said. "I thought that in the last five minutes we played as good defense as we've played this year.
"We didn't finish worth a darn against Lenoir a couple nights ago so this is a sign of improvement."
The Flyers trailed for most of the first half until a three by Morrisette-Barnett, from Sayaun Dent, gave them a 29-28 lead. Smith scored twice off steals and the home team led 41-33 at one point before settling for a 45-43 advantage at the intermission.
Midway through the second half, a jumper by Smith, and a pair of free throws by Winston Bryan, gave the Flyers their first double-digit lead at 65-55. The Eagles stayed within striking distance until 5-9 guard J J Halaby fouled out at the 4:41 mark with 36 points.
A freshman from Baltimore, MD, Halaby scored 33 the night before against Central Carolina. He made 24 of 25 free throws in the two games combined.
"If we gave a Flyer Invitational MVP Award, he gets it, no doubt about it," Apple said.
Morrisette-Barnett led five Flyers in double figures with 14 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Damauri Sexton and Calvin Ahoume added 13 points each. Dent contributed 12 with five assists, and Holt Walker scored 11 points. The Flyers committed a season-low 10 turnovers.
Ahoume also grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked four shots.
"Calvin has been an anchor for us, especially rebounding the basketball," Apple said
Smith enjoyed a productive two games off the bench, scoring a combined 17 points in just over 20 minutes of action with four assists, three steals and just one turnover.
"I try to stay in front of my man, get defensive stops and try to help my team as much as I can," he said. "This was a big game for us. I feel we did everything we needed to do to win this game today."
Central Carolina defeated New River 148-81 in the first game on Saturday. The Flyers got 93 points off the bench in Friday's 139-57 win over New River.
Oxford Emory – Kwong 7 1-1 19, Lee 2 3-4 8, Halaby 11 10-10 36, Clark 4 0-4 8, Staton 1 0-2 2, Gerber 1 0-0 3, George 1 0-1 2 Totals 27 14-22 78. Sandhills – Clarkson 0 1-2 1, Morrisette-Barnett 5 3-3 14, Dent 4 3-7 12, Ahoume 5 3-4 13, Walker 4 2-2 11, Ratliff 0 0-0 0, Grissett 0 0-0 0, Sexton 6 0-0 13, Peterson 2 2-2 6, Bryan 0 2-2 2, Haith 3 1-2 8, Smith 4 0-0 9, Allmond 0 0-0 0, E. Davis 0 0-0 0 Totals 33 17-24 89. Three-point goals: OX 10 (Halaby 4, Kwong 4, Lee, Gerber); SCC 6 (Morrisette-Barnett, Sexton, Haith, Smith, Dent, Walker).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford