Flyers doomed by poor shooting in first half of National Championship Opener

Photo by Donna Ford
Photo by Donna Ford

The Sandhills Flyers were successful on only one out of every five shots from the field in the first half of Thursday's first round NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship game in Rochester, MN.

That ended up creating too big of a hill for the seventh-seeded Flyers (23-9) to climb as they were defeated 76-64 by No. 2 Herkimer County CC, NY (29-1) at the Rochester Community and Technical College Sports Center. 

The tournament continues on Friday with Coach Mike Apple's squad meeting No. 6 Middlesex CC  of Edison, NJ at noon in a consolation bracket contest. The Blue Colts (27-5) were beaten by Richland College of Dallas, TX 91-87 in overtime earlier on Thursday.

The tournament concludes on Saturday with consolation games and the national championship game at 7 p.m.

Donnie Haith drained a three for the Flyers on the first possession of the game against a Generals squad seeking its 26th win in a row. But they made only two more baskets over the next 14 minutes and fell behind 21-12.

A three by Holt Walker ended the drought, but a pair of threes in a row by Arnold Agard sparked a Generals run that made it 40-22 at the intermission.

"When you shoot that poorly against teams in this tournament that are as good as Herkimer, it's pretty hard to have much of a semblance of a chance in the second half," Apple said afterward. "They did a good job in their zone of contesting shots and we had a hard time getting in cinque in our zone attack. It wasn't very pretty."

An 8-2 run that included two baskets by Sayaun Dent and one each by Haith and Devian Smith reduced a 20-point Generals' lead to 42-30 early in the second half. But at the 11:04 mark a three by Derrick Felder gave them their largest advantage at 58-37.

Chase Morrisette-Barnett scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half as the Flyers closed the gap to 73-64 on a three by Winston Bryan in the final minute of the contest.

The Flyers outscored the Generals 42-36 in the second half. Haith was also in double figures with 13 points. Dent led the team with eight boards and Casey Clarkson logged a team-best four assist. The team finished with a field goal percentage of 30.6 compared to 54.9 for the winners. 

An all-around effort by Generals' Felder produced 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, a steal and three blocked shots.

"They were a fundamentally good team, but today was not our best basketball," Morrisette-Barnett said. "We're going to come out tomorrow and play a lot better." We're going to shoot the ball better and we're going to play better defense, and get some more "W's". 

According to Apple the team was going have a meeting Thursday evening.

"We'll talk about how important these next games are for our team and for players who want to build their resumes individually."

The Flyers' Damauri Sexton suffered a broken nose in the second half and his status was uncertain for Friday's game.

Sandhills - Morrisette-Barnett 7 2-3 17, Haith 5 0-0 13, Smith 1 0-2 2, Dent 1 7-8 9, Ahoume 1 0-0 2, Clarkson 2 0-0 4, Sexton 0 2-2 2, Bryan 2 0-0 6, Allmond 0 1-2 1, Walker 2 0-0 5, E. Davis 1 1-2 3 Totals 22 13-19 64; Herkimer - Hines 1 0-0 2, Howard 4 4-6 13, Felder 5 3-6 14, Pough 5 4-9 14, Stone 3 0-2 7, Agard 4 3-4 14, Smith 1 0-0 2, Jackson 3 0-0 6, Alfahad 2 0-0 4 Totals 28 14-27 76. Three-point goals: SCC 7 (Haith 3, Bryan 2, Walker, Morrisette-Barnett); HCCC 6 (Agard 3, Howard, Felder, Stone).