The Sandhills Community College basketball team suffered its first loss of the season 96-86 after USC- Salkehatchie pulled away to an insurmountable lead early in the second half on Saturday afternoon at The Hangar.
In the battle between nationally-ranked teams, the visitors from Walterboro, SC stretched a five-point halftime margin to 24 points before the Flyers closed the gap with a 20-6 game-ending run.
Fourteen first-half turnovers helped put the home team in a come-from-behind situation right from the start against the tall and experienced Indians. Elijah Idlett with 18 points, and Sayaun Dent with 14, were the scoring leaders for the home team.
The No. 1 ranked Flyers (Division III poll) dropped to 14-1 while the No. 24 Indians (Division I) improved to 12-3. Coach Mike Apple's squad travels to Wake Tech on Monday for a 7 p.m. tip-off against an Eagle squad that is 6-7 after winning four of its last five games.
Before a large and enthusiastic Moore County Parks and Recreation Day crowd, an all sophomore starting lineup for the Indians went 6-foot-8, 6-8, 6-6, 6-3 and 6-3, and used its length to disrupt the Flyers' offense.
"They showed us some looks defensively that we had not seen all year," Apple said afterward. "I thought it was good for our guys to see that. It gave us some film we can use to show the guys how to get better.
"The overall takeaway is that our guys didn't quit and kept giving a good effort until the end of the game."
The opening basket by St. John's commit Vince Cole helped get the visitors off to a 10-2 start. Later, three baskets in a row inside by Charles Thomas got the Flyers to within two points at 20-18.
Derreco Miller contributed seven points to the Flyer cause as the two teams pretty much exchanged baskets, leading up to the Indians' 46-41 advantage at the intermission.
Dent, from Savion Saton, scored the first basket of the second half, but about five minutes later, a three by the Indians' Jordan Cross capped a 22-6 burst that put the Indians in command for good.
Winston Bryan sparked the late Flyer rally with a pair of threes. When Idlett completed a 7-0 run with a basket in transition with 2:42 remaining, Indians' Coach Jake Williams put all of his starters back into the game.
The Flyers won the battle of the boards against their taller opponent 46-39 and allowed only five offensive rebounds. They were awarded only 14 free throws compared to 33 for the Indians and were outscored by 18 points at the charity stripe.
In addition to Wake Tech the Flyers are also on the road at Lenoir CC on Wednesday and against 15-0 and nationally- ranked Caldwell Tech on Saturday.
"Honestly, we're just going to learn from this game," Idlett said in echoing his coach's words. "We have to learn how to lose just like we have to learn how to win.
"We've got practice tomorrow and we've got three games next week. We have to win those games if we want to stay where we are."
More than 65 youth wearing Moore County Parks and Recreation shirts and their parents took advantage of the offer of a free admission. There were also many former Flyer athletes on hand, including several members of the 2012 national championship basketball team.
"I thought it was a great crowd and our guys had the opportunity to play a great opponent," Associate Athletic Director Ryan Riggan said afterward. "Having a community day like Moore County Parks and Recreation Day drew a lot of people and gave them the opportunity to see what we having going on with Flyer basketball."
USC- Salkehatchie – McBride 2 11-13 15, Williamson 3 2-2 10, Wesley 6 6-8 18, Rand 7 1-2 15, Cole 6 3-3 17, Wilcox 0 0-0 0, Gilmore 1 0-0 2, Jefferson 1 2-2 4, Bateman 0 0-0 0, Cross 4 3-3 13, Marsh 1 0-0 2 Total 31 28-33 96. Sandhills – Staton 0 0-0 0, Allmond 6 0-1 12, Dent 5 2-2 14, Addison 1 0-0 2, Davis 3 0-1 7, Idlett 7 2-2 18, Ratliffe 0 0-0 0, Yow 0 1-2 1, Bryan 2 2-2 8, Miller 4 3-4 12, Thomas 6 0-0 12, Williams 0 0-0 0, Medins 0 0-0 0 Totals 34 10-14 86. Three-point goals: USC-S 6 (Williamson 2, Cole 2, Cross 2); SCC 8 Dent 2, Idlett 2, Bryan 2, Davis, Miller).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford