In addition to Head Coach Mike Apple, the traveling party to Minnesota included assistant coaches Scott Bender and Josh Smith. Team members included sophomores Tyrell Allmond, Winston Bryan, Evan Davis, Sayaun Dent, Elijah Idlett, Niem Ratliffe and Cameron Williams, and freshmen Corry Addison, Zion Bailey, Collin Medins, Derreco Miller, Cameron Richardson, Savion Staton and Nathan Yow.
Also making the trip were trainer Stefanie Mansfield, scorer Makayla Swinnie and red-shirt freshman team-member Keagan Brayboy who filmed the three Flyer games. Photographer Donna Ford made her fourth trip to the national tournament shooting the Flyers.
Upon their return, Sandhills President John Dempsey met the team at the airport on Sunday.
2012 Title Team Member Watches With Interest
A surprise Flyer supporter at Friday's semi-final and championship games was Chris Vinson, a member of the 2012 national championship squad. Close to finishing up studies to become a chiropractor, he happened to be attending a chiropractic convention in Minneapolis.
The 6-foot-1 guard on the 30-6 team that defeated Cedar Valley CC (TX) 101-86 in the title game was asked what he thought distinguished this year's squad that he also observed earlier in the season at The Hangar.
"I just think it's their fight," he said. "A lot of credit goes to Coach Apple. It's tough to play two games in one day, but his conditioning program is unreal. They weren't tired at the end and the other team was. That's what won the championship for them today."
Flyer Faithful Travel Well
Following a season-long trend, many Flyer supporters hit the road. Other than the semi-final contest against Rochester Tech on its home court, they out-numbered the fans from the other 10 colleges participating.
Thomas and Erica Idlett of Cary, traveled far and wide to watch their son Elijah play as a freshman at Finger Lakes CC in upstate New York as well as home and away this season.
"It's been a long, long, long journey and a lot of hard work," Thomas said, referring to his son's experience. "He's a good kid and he's remained focused. The minute Coach Apple sat us down and talked about his program, we knew we wanted Eli to be a part of it, but be a student first."
Crystal Rogers is the mother of sophomore Sayaun Dent, who scored 27 points in the championship game and was named the tournament MVP. She says that she attended all of the games home and away, except for one last season.
"I'm very proud," she said of the honors bestowed on the West Bladen High School grad, including Region 10 Player of the Year. "Sayaun is not rah-rah, but he works hard. It shows me that all the hard work paid off.
"As for the team, it was well-deserved. We know that the team with the most points wins, not the player. They learned how to play together, found their niche and clicked at the right time."
Dent was the most experienced of the Flyers in terms of minutes on the court at the 2019 tournament. He'll be remembered for finishing strong down the stretch in many of the games this season. He scored 17 of his 27 points after the intermission in the championship game.
"I was just always told by my high school coach that it's not how you start, but how you finish," he said. "I started slowly tonight, but during the second half my teammates gave me the confidence to do what I can do."
It's Now How You Start ...... Another Example
Freshman Savion Staton, a 6-2 guard from Southwest Edgecombe High School, averaged 9.8 points per game coming off the bench most of the season. In the tournament opener he took only one shot and was scoreless in 18 minutes of action. He rebounded to score 16 points in the semi-final victory over Rochester Tech and followed that with 12 points, including two clutch three late in the championship game. He also credited his teammates for lifting him up.
"I was struggling and Eli was in foul trouble so I had to pick up for him," he said, referring to the semi-final game when Idlett fouled out.
Flyers Find a way
The Flyers completed the season with 18 wins in a row and a final record of 34-2. Averaging a nation-leading 103.6 points per game this season, while holding opponents to 74.7, they scored a season-low in the opening game 65-55 victory over Herkimer CC. They trailed in the second half of all three tournament games.
"It isn't so much at this time of year how you do it," said Apple, whose career record in nine years at Sandhills is 232-65 . "It's that you do it in any way possible. We made just 35 per cent of our shots in the first game and won. Mohawk Valley kept making great shots and we just kept finding a way, finding a way."
One More Thing
This is interesting. Nationally ranked Division I teams USC Salkehatchie and Caldwell Tech were the only teams to defeat the Flyers this season. They met in the Region 10 championship game held on March 7 at The Hangar. USC Salkehatchie won the exciting game 92-89 and an automatic spot in the Division I national tournament that has been since canceled because of Coronavirus.