The Sandhills Community College Flyers are the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III champions. They defeated Cedar Valley Community College of Dallas County, Texas in the final game 101-86. The National Championship was held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York.
A Texas team has won the NJCAA Division III for the past six years. This is the first time a team from North Carolina or Region X won the tournament.
The team was the highest scoring team in the NJCAA this year and tied the all-time record of the most points in a half of a championship game. They missed by seven points the highest score in a NJCAA final game. At one point, the Flyers held the largest lead of any game in the tournament.
The first two games of the playoffs saw the Flyers win by a single point.
A buzzer-beating, coast-to-coast runner by Daquain Towns gave the Flyers the victory in the first game against the number one team in the nation, Brookdale Community College of New Jersey. A video clip of his exciting heroics in the first game is garnering hundreds of hits on youtube.
The second game of the playoffs against Bronx Community College of New York went into overtime and ended in confusion as the clock was not started when play began on an inbound pass with 1.8 seconds left in the game. Officials set the clock to .8 seconds and the Bronx inbounded the ball once more to have it swatted away when shot. The Flyers won the game at 85-84.
Towns was named Tournament Most Valuable Player with 18 points and four assists. He finished the tournament with 48 points. Towns comes to the Flyers from Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, NC.
Markell Lotharp was named All-Tournament and the coaching honor was awarded to Flyers coach Mike Apple. Lotharp comes to the Flyers from Forest Hills High School in Marshville, NC.
The tournament was streamed online and the games that featured the Flyers were the highest watched with over 3000 per game. The final game was viewed on 4,7111 computers.
The Flyers finish the year at 30-6 and won their last eleven games. Going into the tournament, they were ranked sixth in the NJCAA poll. A 104-82 victory over arch-rival Davidson Community College crowned the Flyers Region X champions and they went on to defeat Prince George’s Community College 82-67 for the District 7 title.
“This has been a once in a lifetime experience,” said center Louis Craft. “Everybody pulled together because we all wanted the same outcome. Not everyone can call themselves a National Champion, but now we can.”
The Flyers reinstated the athletic program four years ago and this is the first season for coach Mike Apple. He was formerly the basketball coach at Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, NC. The Athletic Director Aaron Denton coached the Flyers the past three years.
In addition to men’s basketball, Sandhills Community College has women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s golf. In 2010, both the women’s volleyball played in the national competition and men’s golf qualified for national play.
A celebration will be held at the college on Wednesday at 12:15 in the Dempsey Student Center. The public is invited to attend.
There will also be a celebratory parade in downtown Southern Pines on Saturday at 11 a.m. followed by a meet and greet on the basketball courts in the park.
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