The statistics tell the story of the Sandhills Community College basketball team's convincing 123-86 Region X victory at Central Carolina CC on Wednesday.
The Flyers handed out a season-high 28 assists and committed only 12 turnovers. And they played pretty good defense, clamping down on a team that had won seven games in a row and was averaging 101 points per game.
Coach Mike Apple's squad (9-4 overall, 2-0 conference) takes sole possession of first place over the Cougars (8-4, 1-1). The Flyers entertain Brunswick CC at 3 p.m. on Saturday in their final game before the holiday break.
The Flyers came into this one still feeling the sting from an 87-77 home loss two games ago to Caldwell Tech when they neither took care of nor shared the ball very well.
"I feel like everybody was focused coming off the loss this past Saturday," sophomore Chase Morrisette-Barnett said afterward. "Knowing that this was a conference game, and that we play them three times, we didn't want to give them any chance to feel like they can beat us."
During a half that they converted 16 of 21 free throws, the Cougars caught up and took a 22-21 lead with about 11 minutes remaining before the intermission. Then after a three by Devian Smith, and four quick points by Cameron Williams, the Flyers began rebuilding a lead.
Making his second start of the season, freshman Delton Davis, and sophomore Damauri Sexton, accounted for 13 of the Flyers' 14 points during a 14-4 run that increased their lead to 46-31. Later Tavarus Peterson and Williams combined for 10 in the last three minutes on the way to a 62-47 spread at the break.
A product of Bunn High School, the 6-foot-2 Davis finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Even when not looking for his shot early in the game, he was effective in the offense as a sure-handed facilitator.
"I believe in my teammates," he said. "I know if I create and I get them open shots, they'll knock them down. We just came in with the mindset to play good defense and share the ball with each other and that's what we did."
There was much more of the same in the second half. A three by Haith, mixed in with three baskets by Walker, including two off feeds from Davis, helped stretch the margin to 75-53. Then 6-7 freshman Evan Davis went to work underneath scoring on three-put-backs, and again off a feed from Smith, as the lead grew to an insurmountable, for the Cougars, 85-57.
Seven Flyers scored in double figures led by Walker with 18 to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Sexton finished with 16 and Morrisette-Barnett added 14 points, eight boards and five assists. Williams scored a season-high 11 and Evan Davis had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double as a Flyer.
The Flyer guards and wings combined for 21 assists against only six turnovers. Peterson capitalized on the threat of his strong drives to the basket to dish out a Flyer career-high five assists. He also scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. Ahoume is second in NJCAA Division III with 34 blocked shots after turning away four Cougar attempts.
A win on Saturday against a Division I team with a 9-1 record in Brunswick would make a nice way to complete the 2018 portion of the schedule.
"We've really emphasized looking for each other and I think they're taking a little pride from passing the ball to one another," Apple said. "That's been a long time coming. I'm glad to see it.
"Brunswick is a quality program so we will have our hands full on Saturday."
Sandhills – Morrisette-Barnett 5 4-5 14, Haith 4 1-2 11, D. Davis 5 0-0 12, Ahoume 2 0-0 4, Walker 8 1-2 18, Ratliff 1 0-0 3, Grissett 1 1-1 3, Sexton 5 6-7 16, Peterson 4 1-2 9, Bryan 0 0-0 0, Smith 1 2-4 5, Dent 0 2-2 2, Allmond 2 1-1 5, Williams 4 3-4 11, E. Davis 5 0-0 11 Totals 47 22-30 123. Central Carolina – North 1 2-2 4, George 6 3-6 15, Butler 3 4-7 12, Everett 3 2-2 8, Guthrie 0 2-2 2, Reid 0 5-6 5, Bradley 4 4-6 12, Alston 6 3-4 18, Jones 1 0-0 2, Wright 2 2-4 7, Welch 0 1-2 1 Totals 26 28-41 86. Three-point goals: SCC 7 (Haith 2, D. Davis 2, Walker, Ratliff, Smith); CCCC 6 (Alston 3, Butler 2, Wright,).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford