Damauri Sexton sparked a first-half rally that put the Sandhills Community College basketball team in front for good on the way to a 109-78 Valentine's Day eve victory over Washington Academy at the Hangar.
Sexton and Chase Morrisette-Barnett each scored 20 points as the Flyers improved to 19-7. Other double-figure scorers for the winners were Donnie Haith and Sayaun Dent with 14 apiece, and Holt Walker with 13.
Coach Mike Apple's squad (4-0 conference) wraps up Region X play with a 4 p.m. game at Johnston CC (0-5) on Saturday and a date at Central Carolina CC (3-2) next Wednesday.
With the Flyers trailing 10-6 in the early-going, Sexton came off the bench to score 10 points during an 18-5 run that helped put his team in front 24-15. The flurry included two second chance baskets, a dunk off of a steal and a blocked shot.
"We punched them in the mouth early and I think they felt that," Sexton said afterward. "We were in the passing lanes and got a lot of steals. Once we start running, teams that don't run like we do, get tired."
Morrisette-Barnett had 10 points in the half as the lead expanded to 17 points before a late surge by the visitors made it 51-42 Flyers at the intermission.
"Our strength is our quickness and we did a good job of hawking the basketball, making it difficult for them to get good looks and run their offense," Flyers coach Mike Apple said. "Offensively I thought we did a good job of floor spacing and letting our players make plays."
The Flyers took complete command with a 19-8 surge to begin the second half. Back-to-back corner threes by Holt Walker, off feeds from Niem Ratliff and Sexton, made it 70-50 with 12:30 remaining in the contest.
Later Sexton assisted on baskets by Haith and Cameron Williams on consecutive possessions that raised the Flyer total to the century mark. A perfect one-bounce diagonal pass to Haith covered about 40 feet.
"I liked that pass," Sexton said. "I felt like a guard on that one. I try to do a little bit of everything - whatever helps the team."
The stat line for the 6-foot-6 product of Rocky River High School outside of Charlotte also included nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots. He is third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg) second in rebounds (6.0), second in blocked shots (1.3) and fifth in assists (2.3).
"Damauri has a lot of tools in his kit and is a very complete player," Apple said. "He's a stretch-four for us, but he's a Taylor-made three-man in a lot of college offenses. He had a heck of a game."
The Flyers turned 25 Washington turnovers into 31 points and 24 offensive rebounds into 30 second-chance points. The 58-point second half included a pair of emphatic dunks by Calvin Ahoume (from Ratliff and Devian Smith). Casey Clarkson handed out a team-high five assists as 10 different players shared the team total of 25. Michael Cunningham scored 27 points to lead the squad from Greenville NC.
Flyer Extra – At mid-court during the intermission, Apple presided as Coach Jef Moody and three members of the men's cross country team that finished second at the NJCAA Division III Championship last November were recognized. Daniel Taylor (1st place), Andrew Bowen (13th) and Daniel Hagen (14th) all earned All-American honors. Also recognized was Emily Stonesifer who will step down at the end of this season after serving as the video technician for Flyers' basketball for the past five years. Apple estimates she has filmed over 100 games all as a volunteer. "We are going to miss her," the coach said. "She has a great attitude and it's hard to replace people who have given as much of themselves as she has."
Washington Academy – Taylor 6 1-1 13, Cunningham 8 6-7 27, Eubanks 2 2-2 8, Campbell 2 1-2 5, Rivas 2 0-0 4, Hyland 4 0-0 11, Rhodes 2 1-2 6, Ahrens 1 0-0 2, Akigbogun 1 0-0 2 Totals 28 11-14 78. Sandhills – Morrisette-Barnett 9 2-7 20, Haith 4 5-6 14, Smith 1 1-4 3, Dent 6 2-4 14, Ahoume 3 1-3 7, Ratliff 1 0-0 2, Grissett 1 0-2 2, Sexton 8 4-5 20, Allmond 0 0-0 0, E. Davis 1 3-4 5, Williams 1 0-0 2, Walker 5 0-0 13, Clarkson 3 0-0 7 Totals 43 18-35 109. Three-point goals: WA 11 (Cunningham 5, Hyland 3, Eubanks 2, Rhodes); SCC (Walker 3, Clarkson, Haith).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford