As Johnston County Community College was mounting a second half rally that cut what was once a 23-point Sandhills Community College lead to seven, Flyers’ coach Mike Apple watched the proceedings quietly. No timeouts were called.
“We kind of felt like our team got themselves into it and they needed to figure out how to get themselves out of it,” Apple said afterward. “To their credit they did respond and built the lead back up.”
A base line drive by Shane Garrison had given the Flyers a 55-32 lead with just-under 14 minutes remaining in the game held at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. But a three by former Flyer Tymell Blue capped a 23-7 Jaguar run that made it 62-55 at the eight minute mark.
Kenneth Williams missed the first half of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the free throw line that could have drawn the Jags even closer before the Flyers’ Zezva Liluashvili split a pair and a basket in transition by Josh Smith contributed to a 10-3 response that restored order.
The final outcome was a 78-62 conference victory that moves the Flyers to 16-4 overall and 4-1 in Region X. The Jaguars dropped to 5-11 and 0-4. Jeremias Easterling finished with a team-high 15 points and 17 rebounds. Smith added 13 points. D’Angelo Harris was the assist leader with five.
On a productive afternoon overall for the Flyer big men, Harrell added nine points to go with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Garrison scored nine, had four boards and was 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Kisheem Faison scored 17 points to lead the home team.
In spite of being able to build an early lead that rose to 44-27 at the intermission, Apple thought his team seemed out of sync much of the way.
“We didn’t come out with the level of intensity we need to come out with in order to be as successful as we wanted to be,” he said. “I give Johnston County all the credit in the world. They played hard and took it to us. But it’s a road victory and we’re certainly not giving it back.”
A share of first place in the conference will be at stake when the Flyers travel to Davidson County CC (17-1, 4-0) for a 7 p.m. tip-off on Wednesday. The Storm won the first meeting between the teams, also played in Thomasville, 106-93.
Double-Double Man – Easterling posted his 10th double-double of the season on Saturday and the 21st of his Flyer career. The latter total is a Flyer standard. Kermeriaz Harrington holds the single-season high of 16 set during the 2012-13 season before going on to play for two years at the University of Northwestern Ohio. Easterling is averaging 12.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season. The 6-foot-7 product of Scotland County High School was a combined 12-for-13 from the field in the last two games and has made 63 per cent of his shots this season. “Jeremias plays as hard as any kid I’ve ever coached,” Apple says. “He’s a good basketball player and an even better guy.”
Sandhills CC – Lathan 1 2-2 4, Smith 5 0-0 13, Easterling 6 3-4 15, Field 3 0-0-7, Harrell 4 1-3 9, Liluashvili 2 2-4 6, McCrimmon 0 0-0 0, Harris 2 0-0 5, Thomas 2 1-1 5, Moore 2 1-2 5, Childs 0 0-0 0, Garrison 2 5-6 9 Totals 29 15-22 79. Johnston CC – Faison 6 5-5 17, Williams 1 3-11 5, Blue 5 0-1 12, Lawson 4 0-0 8, Phelps 3 0-0 8, Miller 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 0-0 0, Hall 5 0-0 10 Totals 25 8-17 62. Three-point goals: SCC 5 (Smith 3, Field, Harris); JCC 4 (Blue 2, Phelps 2).
– Charlie Bergmann
-Photo by Donna Ford