January 4, 2024 – The latest chapter in one of the nation’s best JUCO rivalries was written Wednesday inside Brinkley Gym. For fans of Davidson-Davie basketball, it was a storyline they thoroughly enjoyed.
The STORM erupted in a 65-point first half that saw them excel in all aspects of the game.
Sandhills tried to battle back in the second half, but never could put a significant dent in the huge deficit in losing 110-83 to second-ranked Davidson-Davie.
“I was so proud of the guys first half,” said STORM head coach Matt Ridge. “We had that next play mentality that we talk about all the time. We denied and pressured, and got deflections and steals that led to transition buckets. It was fun to be a part of that first half.”
If there was any rust from a long layoff for the holiday break, it sure did not show in the blistering first 20 minutes of the contest for the STORM. After briefly trailing in the opening seconds, it was a basketball clinic to the halftime buzzer. Davidson-Davie swarmed to the ball on defense, shared it on offense, and shot lights out at a 58.5 percentage clip.
Nygie Stroman led the offensive attack with 18 first-half points, doing much of his damage in traffic down low. While the sophomore worked inside, DJ Suggs and Kobe Parker were heating up behind the arc. The two accounted for all six triples connected on by the STORM.
Up 10-6 with three minutes expired, Davidson-Davie began to put the game firmly in their grasp.
Six unanswered points went on the board and Sandhills burned a timeout to regroup. It only delayed another burst by the home team. Parker swished in a 3 and Frank Stockton rose up for an emphatic two-handed slam on a fast break. When Stockton got free on the baseline for another dunk on a backdoor cut later on, Davidson-Davie was up 29-10.
The Flyers fell even further behind as the defensive pressure disrupted what they wanted to do on offense. Runs of 11-0 and 10-2 by the STORM added to the frustration, as the lead gradually grew into a 33-point cushion at intermission.
“That was one of our best halves of the season,” said Suggs, who tallied 21 points on the evening. “We were just executing our plays and playing hard on defense. We are starting to come together, and the first half showed that.”
While the outcome was never in doubt, the second half was a much different story than the first, and Coach Ridge was not too happy with what he saw. His team was careless with the ball, committing 12 turnovers. They additionally had poor shot selection at times and missed assignments on the defensive end that led to easy buckets. Sandhills played much better and outscored the STORM by six, taking a bit of the shine off the sparkling first half.
“Even though we addressed it at halftime, clearly I did not do a good enough job of getting them to focus and play hard, smart and together that second half,” Ridge said. “We were taking bad shots, and our decision-making was questionable at times. We need to grow up mentally and be able to put people away. Give Sandhills credit. They did not quit when they were down 30 plus at the half.”
Ridge is focused on the big picture and knows that if his team does not play hard for 40 minutes come tournament time, there will be no hardware to show for it. While not pleased with what he saw second half, he is hopeful lessons can be learned, and that the team that showed up first half will be seen a lot more.
“It was not our best all-around 40 minutes, but without a doubt, we had our best half of the season. I think the ceiling for this group is incredibly high, and hopefully, we can keep getting better, so we are playing our best basketball in February and March.”
Stroman recorded a double-double of 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead the team in both categories. Stockton and Aden Taylor had 15 and 13 points, respectively, while Parker concluded with 11 points.
Davidson-Davie (12-1) returns to action Saturday for a Region X tilt with Central Carolina. Tip is set for 3 p.m. at Brinkley Gym.