The Sandhills Community College basketball team (20-7) reached the 20-win plateau for the eighth time in the last nine years on Saturday with an 85-72 victory over Johnston CC in Smithfield.
The Flyers raced out to a 20-3 lead and were never seriously challenged after that. Sayaun Dent scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the winners in both categories. Donnie Haith added 12 points to go with six rebounds and six steals. Casey Clarkson made all three of his shots from behind the arc and scored 11 points.
"We had a good carryover from what we did on Thursday," Flyers' Coach Mike Apple said, referring to the 109-78 win over Washington Academy. "For the first five minutes against Johnston we were really, really good defensively. From that point we kind of coasted and didn't play as well as we wanted to play. We had 18 turnovers for the game which is too high."
The Flyers (5-0 Region X) will be seeking their sixth win in a row and try to complete conference play with a perfect record when they face Central Carolina CC (13-13, 3-2) at 7 p.m. in Sanford on Wednesday. They have already earned the right to represent Region X in the District 7 tournament that will be held at the Hangar on March 1-2.
A 3 p.m. Sophomore Day contest against Combine Academy of Charlotte on Sunday at home completes the regular season.
"When this team brings its "A" game, they're really good," Apple said. "I thought Thursday might have been one of our better games this year. You always want to build on that and I hope we can start sustaining that not for just a game, but for a couple of games."
In the third year of the basketball program (2010-11) the Flyers won 20 games for the first time when Coach Aaron Denton's squad finished 24-7. The next year the team went 30-6 in Apple's first season as coach and won a national championship. Since then, only the 2015-16 squad that finished 19-11 failed to reach the 20-mark.
"I think anytime you win 20-plus games it's kind of a standard for success," Apple said.
This season's Flyers have also performed well in the classroom. Seven members of the team completed the first semester with GPA's of 3.0 or better.
Flyers extra – Three former Flyers who are winding up their college basketball careers had big games on Saturday. Christian Lathan was 9-for-10 from the field, including 4-for-4 on threes, and scored a career-high 23 points to help St. Andrews win its final home game of the season 66-61 over Bluefield State. St. Augustine guard Craig McDaniel fashioned a double-double, scoring 11 points to go with 10 rebounds in his team's 76-66 loss to Shaw. And on Senior Night at Johnson C. Smith, 6-7 forward Tony Harper posted 11 points, three rebounds and two blocked shots to help his team defeat Livingstone 91-84.
Sandhills - Morrisette-Barnett 3 1-1 7, Sexton 2 0-0 5, Haith 5 2-2 12, Dent 4 6-6 14, Ahoume 1 0-0 2, Clarkson 4 0-0 11, Ratliff 0 0-0 0, Grissett 0 0-0 0, Smith 3 2-4 9, Allmond 2 2-3 6, Williams 1 0-0 2, Walker 3 3-4 9, E. Davis 3 2-4 8 Totals 31 18-24 85. Johnston – Tucker 11 3-3 29, Mitchell 5 7-7 19, Hines 4 2-4 10, Potts 2 1-2 5, Pearsall 3 0-0 6, Orr 1 0-0 3, Thorb 0 0-0 0, Anderson 0 0-0 0 Totals 26 13-16 72. Three-point goals: SCC 5 (Clarkson 3, Smith, Sexton); JCC 7 (Tucker 4, Mitchell 2, Orr).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford