Zezva Liluashvili scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the final 12:30 of regulation and overtime as the Sandhills Community College basketball team moved to 5-0 with a 75-69 victory over Prince George's CC at the Hangar Friday evening.
The sophomore point guard helped rescue a Flyer squad that connected on only seven of its 36 shots from the field in a first half that saw it trail by as many as 14 points. In the end, neither team made one out of three of its shots overall for the night in the defensive struggle. "First of all this was our first home game and with a lot of crowd I guess we were nervous in the first half," Liluashvili, who is from the country of Georgia explained. "It wasn't the start we wanted, but the main thing is we went to the locker room and had a conversation. Coach (Mike Apple) told us what to do and we came out and did what we were supposed to do."
The game was a part of the Sandhills Flyers Classic. Central Carolina CC defeated New River CC of Dublin, VA 111-90 in Friday's first game. Central Carolina and Prince George's meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday followed by the Flyers and New River at 3 p.m.
Trailing 24-10 at the six-minute mark of the first half, Josh Smith helped the Flyers close the gap to 29-23 at half-time with a drive for two and a three. Apple's comments to his team during the intermission addressed how his players were attacking the Owls' defense.
"I give all the credit in the world to Prince George's," he said. "They did a great job making us have to work really hard to score. At the same time our perimeter players especially were not being aggressive in the offense. That was the biggest discussion. Zezva and D'Angelo Harris did a great job getting us more aggressive on the attack."
The Owls widened the gap to 41-32 before eight quick points by Smith, including a pair of threes, sparked a 12-2 Flyer run. Liluashvili capped it with a basket in transition for the first of his second half points. That gave the home team its first lead since the opening minute of the game at 44-43.
But with just over four minutes remaining, the Owls' Kennith Ford was fouled making a three. He turned it into a four-point play and a 60-53 lead. Down the stretch, Liluashvili made a pair of free throws, a three, and an old fashioned three-point play leading to the 64-64 deadlock at the end of regulation.
The Flyers were leading 68-67 when Harris, the smallest player on either side at 5-foot-8, made a spectacular play in the paint. With the shot clock winding down, Smith rushed a shot toward the basket from about 15-feet away. Harris jumped to grab it with his back to the basket. Before landing he somehow whirled around and banked it in as the buzzer sounded.
"When the shot clock gets down to five seconds we call "red" so I knew I had to get the shot up as quick as I could," Harris said.
Vulnerable to drives by the Owl guards earlier, the Flyers' 6-8 Mason Harrell, and 6-7 Jeremias Easterling, clogged up the paint down the stretch. Harrell, who finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound in the final two minutes to help protect the lead.
"Luckily at the end we were rim protectors," Apple said. "Mason did a good job getting his hands up and Jeremias was there too.
"It's early in the season and we're still trying to figure out what we have to do to be successful. Hopefully tonight was a good measuring device for them to see where we are at and hopefully build on it."
Flyer Notes – Liluashvili, who is averaging a team-best 19.4 points per game, is 41-for-48 from the charity stripe (85.4%) after going 7-for-7. Easterling grabbed 15 rebounds, but missed his fifth double-double in a row by two points. He leads the team in rebounds (18.0 per game) and in assists (4.2). Smith scored 16 points with four threes---The Flyers also defeated Prince George's in overtime the previous time the teams met. That was in the 2015 district tournament in Largo, Maryland. Tee Hardy, who played for the Flyers in that game, was in attendance for this one. --- Another interested spectator was Daquain Towns, MVP of the 2012 national tournament won by the Flyers.
Prince George's – M. Johnson 5 5-7 16, J. Johnson 5 4-7 14, Steadman 1 2-2 4, Turner 1 0-0 2, Ogunyoye 5 3-4 13, Ford 4 2-3 12, Pettaway 0 0-0 0, Obike 0 2-2 2, Ashkar 0 0-0 0, Medina 2 0-0 6, Hagins 0 0-0 0 Totals 23 18-25 69. Sandhills – Lathan 2 0-0 4, Smith 6 0-0 16, Easterling 1 6-6 8, Field 1 0-0 3, Harrell 4 3-4 11, Liluashvili 5 7-7 19, McCrimmon 0 0-0 0, Harris 4 2-4 10, McFadden 1 0-0 2, Hardy 0 1-2 1, Garrison 0 0-0 0, Childs 0 0-0 0, Thomas 0 1-2 1 Totals 24 20-25 75. Three-point goals: PGCC 5 (Ford 2, Medina 2, M. Johnson; SCC 7 (Smith 4, Liluashvili 2, Field).
All photos courtesy and copyright Donna Ford.