Midway through the second half of Thursday's NJCAA Division III quarterfinal basketball game, the No.1 seeded Sandhills Community College basketball team trailed No. 8 Herkimer CC (NY) 46-39.
The Flyers had been held to just four-second half baskets to that point, but a furious defensive effort and some clutch shooting by Corry Addison and Sayaun Dent helped carry them into the semi-finals with a 65-55 victory.
"It was an absolute grind and hats off to our guys," Flyers' Coach Mike Apple said afterward of the game played at Rochester Regional Sports Center (MN). "They had to really dig down. It was a good win, but the job isn't done."
It was announced before the game that because of concern about the Coronavirus the tournament will conclude on Friday with semi-final games at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. followed by the championship game at 6 p.m.
The Flyers (32-2) will meet No. 4 Rochester Tech (26-5) at 11 a.m. No. 2 seed Mohawk Valley, NY (28-2) will meet the winner of Thursday's late quarterfinal between No. 3 Eastfield, TX (28-6) and No.11 St. Cloud, MN (26-3) at 1 p.m. All further consolation games have been cancelled.
The first of three dunks for baskets in the game by Derreco Miller gave the Flyers an early 9-3 lead, but points were difficult to come by after that against the 2019 National Champion team that defeated them in last year's first game on the same court.
The Flyers were only 10-for-32 from the field in a first half that ended with the Generals in front 30-28.
"We tried very hard not to get into their style of play, but we couldn't do it," Apple said. "They didn't let us get in transition very often and they did a good job managing the shot clock. If we had shot the ball better early, it would have helped us."
With just under nine minutes remaining in the game, a put-back by Dent was followed seconds later by a steal for two by Elijah Idlett, cutting the one-time seven-point deficit to 46-44. Shortly after Tyrell Allmond took a charge, Dent tied it up at 46-46 with a pair of free throws.
Another dunk by Miller put the Flyers ahead for the first time in the second half at 48-46. The game was tied once more before Dent cut for the basket and turned a slick feed from Savion Staton into a three-point play.
Clinging to a two-point lead with 1:36 remaining, Addison drained a three and followed that up moments later with 4-for-4 from the charity stripe to all but seal the win.
"I knew it was going in," the freshman guard said of the timely three-pointer. "That felt good."
Idlett played at Finger Lakes CC (NY) as a freshman. He saw this game as something of a rematch against a Herkimer team that had beaten them when he was there. Before the game he exchanged words with a Herkimer assistant coach
"I told him that this should be a good one," he said. "It really just came down to containing their guards and just playing defense. You could tell they were getting tired.
"Getting the inside and out going with Dereco's dunks and Corry's three there was big."
The four teams remaining will be severely tested with the semi's and final condensed into a period of about eight hours.
"I think we're the best-in-shape team here," Addison said. "I think playing two games back-to-back will work in our favor."
The Flyers held the Generals to 7-for-30 shooting from the field in the second half. Dent led the winners with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Miller added 14 to go with eight boards and Addison added a dozen points.
Herkimer - Griffin 2 4-5 8, Brown 5 0-0 12, Miller 0 0-0 0, Desinor 6 0-0 15, Silas 1 1-6 3, Alfahad 3 0-0 6, Warmack 1 5-6 7, Stephens 0 4-6 4 Totals 18 14-23 55. SCC - Idlett 2 4-4 8, Dent 5 5-5 15, Bryan 1 0-0 3, Addison 3 4-4 12, Miller 7 0-1 14, Ratliffe 1 0-0 3, Staton 0 1-2 1, Allmond 1 1-4 3, Yow 0 2-2 2, Williams 2 0-0 4, Richardson 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0. Three-point goals: HCC 5 (Desinor 3, Brown 2); SCC 4 (Addison 2, Ratliffe, Bryan).