Sophomore Donnie Haith scored the first 12 points for Sandhills Community College, and a career high 25 for the game, as the Flyers defeated Johnston Community College 100-80, capping a special Saturday at the Hangar.
The Flyers improved to 14-5 overall and 3-0 in the Region X Conference. With a victory over Central Carolina CC (10-10, 2-1) at home on Wednesday (7 p.m.), they can clinch the regular season title and a spot in the District 7 tournament on March 1-2. The Flyers defeated the Cougars 123-86 in Sanford on December 5.
The largest crowd of the season was attracted by the high school/college doubleheader that saw Apex Friendship defeat Union Pines 71-44 in the Martin Luther King Day Challenge game that preceded the Flyers' contest.
With his coach at Pinecrest High School, Ben Snyder, and several former teammates looking on, Haith sank a pair of threes in the opening barrage that staked his team to a 12-4 lead. With just over two minutes remaining in the half, forward Calvin Ahoume made his first appearance since suffering a hand injury in a game against Brunswick CC on December 8 that required surgery. He quickly sank an 18-foot jumper, blocked a shot and then scored the final basket of the half on a put-back to give his team a 52-41 lead.
A point guard throughout his career at Pinecrest and Sandhills, Haith had been lobbying Flyers' coach Mike Apple for an opportunity to play on the wing.
"At the wing you get to run the floor and get transition baskets," last season's Region X Rookie of the Year said. "And if I'm hitting my shot, they start running out at me and I can kick it off to my teammates."
Injuries to Delton Davis and Tavarus Peterson in a recent auto accident, coupled with the quality depth at point guard provided by sophomore Casey Clarkson and freshman Devian Smith, led Apple to make the change.
Haith's output on Saturday also included three rebounds, three assists and a team-high five steals.
"Donnie does a good job getting out in transition," Apple said. "He did that early and the thing about him is he does that consistently and still gets a chance to create. We're just trying to emphasize his speed."
At the start of the second half, a jumper for two by Haith, and pair of threes by the wing on the other side Chase Morrisette-Barnett, quickly swelled the margin to 60-43. Near the midway point, Holt Walker turned an inbound pass from Tyrell Allmond into an old fashioned three-point play. On the next possession he drained a three on the way to the Flyers building the margin to 20 points.
Morrisette-Barnett and Damauri Sexton were other double-figure scorers for the Flyers with 17 and 16 points respectively. Sexton was also credited with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. Evan Davis corralled 10 boards to lead the Flyers in that category. Smith had a team-high six assists.
Adam Tucker led the visitors (2-14, 0-4) with 24 points and Greg Orr was 6-for-7 from beyond the arc and scored 18. Apple was impressed with the way the Jaguars fought for 40 minutes and thought his squad was lackadaisical on defense at times.
"We've got to play better on Wednesday," he said. "I thought at times we played really well, but overall it was an uneven performance."
The afternoon and evening was a special one for Apple, the college and many of the participants. Apple is a graduate of Union Pines High School. Union Pines coach Nick Boney and Apex Friendship coach P.J. Lowman were assistants on his staff when he coached at Pinecrest. Several former players and recruiting prospects were on hand as well.
"I think that anytime you can get people in the community together to celebrate someone as important as Martin Luther King, and then play basketball, it's a great day," the coach said.
Johnston – Anderson 5 1-2 14, Mitchell 2 0-0 6, Potts 4 0-1 8, Pearsall 5 0-0 10, Tucker 10 2-2 24, Thorb 0 0-0 0, Orr 6 0-0 18 Totals 32 3-5 80; Sandhills – Morrisette-Barnett 6 2-2 17, Sexton 5 5-9 16, Haith 10 3-4 25, Smith 1 0-0 3, E. Davis 2 3-4 7, Ratliff 0 1-2 1, Grissett 1 0-0 2, Bryan 1 0-0 2, Dent 2 2-2 6, Allmond 0 0-0 0, Williams 1 0-0 3, Ahoume 2 0-0 4, Walker 3 1-1 8, Clarkson 2 0-0 6 Totals 36 17-24 100. Three-point goals: JCC 13 (Orr 6, Anderson 3, Mitchell 2, Tucker 2); SCC 11 (Morrisette-Barnett 3, Clarkson 2, Haith 2, Smith, Sexton, Walker).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford