Through the first four games of the season, Elijah Idlett was second on the Sandhills Community College basketball team in scoring. Then his role changed.
Coming off the bench for the fifth game in a row on Tuesday at The Hangar, the 6-foot-2 product of Cary High School scored 19 points in a span of 13 minutes. The explosion helped turn an early four-point deficit against the Francis Marion junior varsity into a 16-point halftime lead.
Ranked No.1 in this week's NJCAA Division III national poll, the Flyers improved to 9-0 with the 113-67 victory. They are idle until December 5 when they travel to Sanford for a 7 p.m. Region 10 game against Central Carolina CC.
Idlett finished with a team-high, and college career-high, 24 points to go with five assists, four steals and three rebounds. He has increased his scoring average in his new role to 14.7 points per game.
He red-shirted last season after playing at Finger Lakes CC in Canandaigua,NY as a freshman.
"Starting is cool, but I'm just going out there to win," he said. "I don't care if I'm the starter or the 10th man, I'm going out there to do whatever I have to do to win the game."
Trailing 10-6 against the team from Florence, SC after the first five minutes, Idlett got things started by turning a steal into a three-point play. His spree included another, "and one", plus a pair of threes. Derreco Miller muscled his way inside for six points in a row later in a half that ended with the Flyers leading 47-31.
"Elijah is absolutely one of our five best players," Coach Mike Apple said, "but I realized when he didn't start that one game he gives us such a lift off the bench. He told me whatever you need I'll be there for it. He's a team guy."
The Flyer forwards dominated the shorter Patriots inside after the intermission. Miller, Charles Thomas, Cameron Richardson, Evan Davis and Cameron Williams finished a combined 18-for-21 from the field. Savion Staton scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
With the home fans languishing as the lead grew to 40 points, three dunks in the last six minutes by Williams, two of them assisted by Niem Ratliffe, created some excitement.
"I had to wake them up," the Union Pines High School grad said. "It felt good to come out here and show off my athleticism to the crowd."
Apple enjoyed the 6-4 sophomore's productive outing.
"Cameron is such a good teammate too," he said. "He takes the minutes he gets and makes the most of it. His teammates love him and you saw that with the display of affection poured on him after the dunks. He's a great athlete and very explosive."
Central Carolina (5-5) is led by last season's Region 10 Player of the Year, Jackson Reid, who is averaging 24.0 points per game. The Flyers won two of the three meetings between the team's last season with the loss coming in Sanford.
Tuesday's game completed a season-opening stretch of nine games in a period of just over three weeks.
"Central has a lot of confidence playing in their gym," Apple said. "We need to go home, rest, be proud of ourselves for the start we've had, regroup on Monday and get ready for Central."
Francis Marion – Jenkins 7 2-5 20, Calhoun 2 6-6 10, Brown 4 0-1 8, Daniels 2 0-0 4, Middleton 1 0-0 2, Jeffcoat 2 1-2 5, Bellamy 2 0-1 4, Holloway 0 0-0 0, Oliver 1 1-2 4, Pletcher 4 0-0 8, Woodland 1 0-1 2 Totals 26 10-18 67. Sandhills – Staton 5 0-0 12, Allmond 2 0-0 4, Dent 3 3-4 9, Addison 3 0-0 7, Miller 3 2-4 8, Idlett 9 3-4 24, Ratliffe 1 2-2 5, Yow 1 0-0 2, Bryan 3 0-0 8, Bailey 1 0-0 3, Thomas 4 0-1 8, Williams 4 0-0 8, Richardson 4 1-2 9, Davis 3 0-0 6, Medins 0 0-0 0 Totals 46 11-17 113. Three-point goals: FM 5 (Jenkins 4, Oliver); SCC 10 (Idlett 3, Bryan 2, Staton 2, Addison, Ratliffe, Bailey).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford