Devian Smith had just split a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining to give the Sandhills Community College basketball team a one-point lead over Brunswick CC in Saturday's game at the Hangar.
A moment later, the ball was knocked loose from one of the Dolphins as he drove toward the basket for the potential game-winning shot. A half a dozen players went to the floor scrambling wildly for it as time expired. The Flyer players and fans held their breath fearing a foul might have been called.
Then one of the officials waved his arms signifying the game was over, finalizing a 94-93 Flyer victory.
"There was kind of a scrum there at the end, but we hung on," Coach Mike Apple said. "We put ourselves in a position to win because we made some big plays down the stretch. Brunswick has a talented team that is going to contend for a conference championship."
The Flyers, now 10-4, overcame early injuries to starting forwards Calvin Ahoume and Holt Walker, and a 33-point, 21-rebound, six blocked shots performance by 6-foot-8 Hoke County product Silas Love. Donnie Haith scored 18 points and Smith had 13 to lead the winners.
Division I Brunswick dropped to 9-2. Exams at Sandhills begin this week. The Flyers will not play again until January 2 when they entertain Hines Prep.
The Flyers led 10-8 when Ahoume suffered a severe laceration to a finger on his left hand after hustling for a loose ball and crashing into an object attached to the wall off to the right of the Brunswick basket.
"I was scared," Smith said about the looks of the injury. "Somebody said, 'let's do it for Calvin'. I went out there and played as hard as I could."
Ahoume, the team's leading rebounder, had blocked two shots during his short stint and now leads NJCAA Division III in that category. He is expected to undergo surgery early this week. A short time later, Walker who is the team's third leading scorer, and also one of its top rebounders, left the floor with an ankle injury. He finished the game with 10 points after seeing only limited action after that.
In spite of 18 first-half points by Love, the Flyers took their biggest lead at 44-31 on a dunk by Damauri Sexton and took a 47-38 advantage into the intermission.
The Dolphins caught up at 64-64 with on another basket by Love. Later a dunk by Love, for his final basket of the game, vaulted the visitors into an 83-77 lead at the 6:30 mark.
"We took a time out and I asked our guys if they wanted me to go down there and tell them we quit," Apple recalled. "To a man they let me know they wanted to play and they fought back."
A put-back by Chase Morrisette-Barnett, and a pair of free throws by Delton Davis, off another put-back, got the Flyers going. It was tied up at 88-88 after Haith scored seven Flyers' points in a row.
The big plays down the stretch Apple referred to also included charges taken by Evan Davis and Smith on the next two Dolphin possessions before a three by Smith put his team in front for good at 91-88.
Haith had the ball in his hands a lot during the final 10 minutes and scored all 11 of his second-half points in that period of time. He appreciated the edge the home crowd provided.
"We're a DIII school, and they're DI, and we had to show them they couldn't beat us here," he said. "We just saw that the game was going crazy. We just had to take over and win it."
Smith added," Coach told us to give him an early Christmas present and that's what we did today."
Evan Davis, a 6-7 freshman, who had been averaging 10 minutes of action per game, was in for 26 minutes in part because of the injuries. He scored 10 points after making five of his nine shots from the field and grabbing three boards.
Morrisette-Barnett put together a double-double that included 11 points and 10 rebounds plus a team-high six assists.
The Flyers have also been without the services of sophomore guard Casey Clarkson, who is recovering from a hand injury suffered during the team's Georgia trip three weeks ago, and sophomore forward Zion Copeland who has yet to see action because of a knee injury.
Brunswick – Newkirk 2 2-3 6, Cheek 4 3-4 14, Lamberth 2 2-4 6, Melvin 5 3-6 14, Love 14 5-5 33, Taylor 2 0-0 6, Randolph 0 0-0 0, Harvey 1 0-0 2, Edwards 2 1-2 7, Scarborough 2 1-2 5, Woodard 0 0-0 0, Lockamy 0 0-0 0 Totals 34 17-26 93. Sandhills – Morrisette-Barnett 3 5-6 11, Haith 6 4-5 18, D. Davis 2 2-2 6, Ahoume 1 0-0 2, Walker 4 0-2 10, Grissett 1 1-2 3, Sexton 4 3-4 11, Peterson 1 0-2 2, Bryan 0 0-0 0, Smith 4 2-4 13, Dent 3 2-2 8, Williams 0 0-0 0, E. Davis 5 0-2 10 Totals 34 19-29 94. Three-point goals: BCC 8 (Cheek 3, Taylor 2, Edwards 2, Melvin); SCC 7 (Smith 3, Haith 2, Walker 2).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford