For Coach Mike Apple, the dramatic response by his team to Thursday's disappointing first round loss to Herkimer County CC in the NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament was all about energy.
The Flyers (24-9) were sharp from the start in Friday's consolation bracket game against Middlesex County College (28-5) and rolled to an 84-68 victory in Rochester, MN. Chase Morrsiette-Barnett led the way with 17 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists, and Donnie Haith contributed 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
The big effort against the Blue Colts was partly evidenced by a 49 to 30 advantage in rebounds.
"I think our guys made a conscious effort to play with a lot of energy today," the coach said. "How many times did they get tips and get on the floor after loose balls? I credit my forwards with setting the tempo for the rest of the team."
The Flyers will play in the fifth place game tomorrow at 2 p.m. against Suffolk County CC of Seiden, NY (28-1), the No.1 ranked team in the nation going into the tournament.
The lead changed hands five times on Friday before a pair of free throws by Morrisette-Barnett put the Flyers in front for good at 16-15 with 12:13 remaining in the first half. Later a steal and a layup by Tyrell Allmond started a 6-0 run that gave them their first double digit lead of 29-18.
A pair of threes by Morrisette-Barnett, and a three-point play in transition by Devian Smith, helped build the margin to 45-31 at the intermission.
Haith had a feeling early-on that the Flyers had an advantage over the New Jerseyans his team could take advantage of.
"I think what helped out today is that we're just in better shape than they are," he said. "They had some injuries from their first game and we just ran them until they were tired."
Apple knew from watching the Blue Colts' first-round overtime loss to Richland College that Letrell West presented a difficult challenge. The Flyers held the 6-foot-3 swingman to a quiet 11 points in the first half, but he scored his team's first 12 points after the intermission, making it 53-43 with 17:30 remaining in the game.
A few minutes later, the first of Casey Clarkson's two second-half threes, and a tip-in by Walker made it 64-46. The Blue Colts never got closer than 10 points after that.
The Flyers held West to a pair of free throws in the final 10 minutes of the game. He finished with 30 points.
"The biggest thing was to keep as many fresh guys on him as possible and really make him work for his baskets," Apple said. "He's a great player, but I think he got tired."
In addition to Morrisette-Barnett with nine, Sexton and Sayaun Dent with eight rebounds apiece, and Calvin Ahoume with seven, helped the Flyers control the boards.
"Our rebounding, which was something that wasn't very good yesterday, was very good," Apple said. "Calvin, Holt, Damauri and Sayaun, and all of them, really gave a good effort underneath."
Ahoume, who was 5-for-7 from the field and scored 12 points, was determined to be ready, coming off the loss to Herkimer.
"I just went back to the hotel and got a good night's sleep and I was really prepared," he said. "Today I was relaxed and ready to play."
Suffolk County's only loss of the season was 82-68 to Central Lakes (MN) on Thursday.
Sandhills - Morrisette-Barnett 6 2-4 17, Haith 6 0-0 14, Smith 2 1-1 5, Dent 4 4-5 12, Ahoume 5 2-4 12, Clarkson 3 0-0 8, Grissett 0 0-0 0. Sexton 2 2-2 6, Bryan 0 0-0 0, Allmond 1 0-0 2, D. Davis 0 0-0 0, Walker 4 0-0 8, E. Davis 0 0-0 0 Totals 33 11-16 84. Middlesex - Valencia 1 3-6 5, West 9 9-11 30, Saintil 0 2-2 2, Crawford 2 3-4 7, Rivera-Rivera 4 0-0 8, Raines 2 4-4 8, Montgomery 0 0-0 0, Nieskens 2 0-0 5, Ndiaye 1 0-0 2 Totals 21 21-27 68. Three-point goals: SCC 7 (Morrisette-Barnette 3, Haith 2, Clarkson 2); Middlesex 5 (West 3, Nieskens 2).