There was little doubt that the subject of emphasis at Friday's Sandhills basketball practice would be defense after Blue Lights Junior College made over 56 per cent of its shots from the field in Thursday's game at the Hangar.
The taller and deeper Flyers, now 16-7, prevailed 106-94 after trailing by as many as eight points in the first half against a Thoroughbred squad that went 8-for-11 on shots from beyond the arc.
Sayaun Dent was 8-for-11 from the field overall and led five Flyers in double-figures with 19 points to go with nine rebounds. Damauri Sexton was 6-for-8 and scored 17 points, and also had nine boards.
Making only his second start of the season, Winston Bryan scored eight points. The red-shirt freshman guard's 23 minutes of action were second only to Chase-Morrisette Barnett among the Flyers and he committed just one turnover.
"We've got to get more stops on defense," he said afterward. "That's what coach talked about in the locker room. We need to hold teams to 70 points instead of 94."
The Flyers trailed 30-22 after Darian Williams made the visitors' seventh three midway through the first half. They caught up at 31-31 on a pair of free throws by Sexton. Then Holt Walker fed Tyrell Allmond for a basket in transition that gave the home team its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Point guard Casey Clarkson had the hot hand over the final two minutes of the half, scoring six points and handing out an assist as the Flyers took a 57-46 advantage into the intermission.
The Flyers maintained a working 10-to 12 point lead for most of the first 13 minutes of the second half. Then, a pair of threes by Bryan during a 9-3 burst extended it to a comfortable 89-73 with just under seven minutes remaining in the contest.
The visitors from Apex did manage to cut their deficit to 10 points at the 1:30 mark.
"I thought the game was in hand with seven or eight minutes to go when they made a nice run," Flyers' Coach Mike Apple said. "We became complacent about what we were trying to do defensively and really didn't get after people.
"Our philosophy going forward is to try to play great defense on every possession. If we don't get it we'll make a change."
Winston sounded like he and his teammates got the message.
"Everybody better lock in pretty quick," he said. "The teams coming up are more talented than the one that came in today so we have to be ready for it and accept the challenge."
The Flyers made 51.4 per cent of their shots from the field and won the battle on the boards 42 to 30. Walker finished with 13 points, Clarkson had 12 and Devian Smith chipped in with 10. Smith and Morrisette-Barnett each dished out five assists.
The Flyers travel to Greensboro to face the Guilford College junior varsity at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Flyers extra – Former Flyers Tony Harper and Mason Harrell each scored eight points on Wednesday as Harper's team, Johnson C Smith, defeated Harrell's, Winston-Salem State 73-62. Harrell shared game-high honors in rebounds with nine.
Blue Lights – Hunter 7 2-2 18, Maxwell 4 2-5 10, Garcia 5 2-2 14, Hurte 1 0-0 2, Campbell 6 0-0 16, Ngong 5 2-4 14, Williams 6 0-3 14, Henry 3 0-0 6 Totals 37 8-16 94. Sandhills – Morrisette-Barnett 3 0-1 7, Bryan 2 2-2 8, Smith 2 5-5 10, Dent 8 3-4 19, E. Davis 1 2-2 4, Ratliff 1 2-4 4, Grissett 0 0-0 0, Sexton 6 5-6 17, Allmond 2 2-4 6, Williams 1 0-0 2, Ahoume 2 0-0 4, Walker 5 2-3 13, Clarkson 5 2-2 12 Totals 38 25-33 106. Three-point goals: BL 12 (Campbell 4, Hunter 2, Garcia 2, Ngong 2, Williams 2); SCC 5 (Bryan 2, Morrisette-Barnett, Smith, Walker).
by Charlie Bergmann
photo by Donna Ford