Sandhills Machine, a youth national travel basketball program based in Southern Pines, represented North Carolina well at the 5th Annual U.S. Basketball Games, hosted at the Lakepoint Champions Complex in Cartersville, GA this past weekend.
Team North Carolina – Sutton 14U exploded out the gate against Alabama – Smiley with a lopsided 93 – 9 win. All the players scored, and the team was led by point guards Amaree Barber and Salah Sutton with 14 points each, Jaylen Sturdivant had 13 points, 3 assists and Paul McNeil had 10 points, 4 assists.
Team NC came up short 52 – 57 against Georgia – Bowyer a team that showcased a top player in the nation who stands 6’5. Sandhills Machine defensive specialist Jaylin Morgan standing at a gracious 5’11 was tasked with defending this player and was praised by the media in attendance for his tenacious effort.
Regardless of the atmosphere, and all the hype of ranked players, Team NC was up 6 points in the closing minutes of the game and was unable to hold on. Paul McNeil led the team with 16 points, 13 rebounds, Derrick Benbow had 14 points, and Jaylen Sturdivant had 13 points.
Team NC captured a win 54 – 53 over a well-disciplined West Virginia that showcased good three-point shooting setup by a point guard with great ball-handling skills and the ability to get both feet in the paint.
To stagnate WV’s exceptional guard play, Team NC used the defensive abilities of Jaylin Morgan and Shomarii Hailey who both made it their personal responsibility to disrupt WV’s offensive flow.
Derrick Benbow led the team with 17 points, 9 rebounds, Paul McNeil had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and Jaylen Sturdivant had 8 points.
Team NC was knocked out of the quarterfinals 51 – 52 by a tough Mississippi – Webber which showcased a 7 footer, 6’8 and a top point guard in the nation. Coach Sutton’s words of encouragement were, “We’re here now, nothing left to do but be great!”
MS jumped out to a 12 point lead before Team NC was able to settle down and play their game. On paper and watching the layup lines, Team NC appeared to be at a disadvantage.
Paul McNeil, had something to say about that, leading both teams in scoring with 25 points, along with 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists.
Jaylen Sturdivant finished up with 11 points, Derrick Benbow had 8 points and Jaylin Morgan’s 5 steals from constant harassment of MS’s point guard.
With 54 seconds remaining, Team NC was in control, up 5 points and had the game won.
“The competition level was great, however, I feel like we gave two games away, games we definitely should have won against Georgia and Mississippi,” said Sandhills Machine Coach Cash Sutton.
Sandhills Machine’s teams will be in action August 10 – 13 at the NC/SC AAU State Championships in Rock Hill, S.C.; 14U and 16U which will compete up in the 17U division.