Perfect 12Published 2:27pm Monday, February 13, 2012
WINDSOR – Make it a dozen.
Just as they did in their first year in the Northeastern Coastal Conference, the Hertford County boys basketball team completed an undefeated conference season – twelve wins and no losses.
The Bears closed out the regular season with a 76-62 win over rival, Bertie, Friday night in Windsor; breaking open a tight contest in the second half.
“Twelve-and-oh is a good thing,” said smiling Bears coach Charles Simmons, “but come Monday we’ll put all that behind us and just get ready for the conference tournament.”
The Bears will get a first-round bye as the league’s top seed.
Fifth-seed Bertie has a Tuesday date at Northeastern against number-four Edenton.
Wayne Simmons led a quartet of Bears in double-figure scoring with 24 points. Shabazz Atkins and Dwight Vaughn had 15 each while Jquwan Ruffin had 12.
Dreshaun Morris closed out ‘Senior Night’ with a 22 point performance for Bertie while Shaquille White added 12.
“Third quarter they made a run and we couldn’t recover from it,” said Bertie coach Robert Jones.
The game was a series of runs.
Deshaquan Brown scored Bertie’s first bucket before Hertford County scored 10 in a row, highlighted by a pair of three-point field goals from Atkins.
The Falcons cut it back thanks to a run of their own.
White contributed with a pair of free throws and a layup off the glass before Morris drained a pair of three-pointers from behind the crooked line and the game was tied at 14-all with a minute-and-a half left in the quarter.
Neither team scored after the tie and the game went into the second quarter with the same numbers; but Bertie kept up its run. Scoring came from Raekwon Williams, a Morris dunk that thrilled the crowd and a Malcolm Cherry steal and layup.
While that put the Falcons up by four (20-16), the Bears stormed back as they accounted for nine of the next 13 points scored to retake the lead, 25-24.
Tyhuan Moore scored to put Bertie back in front to the cheers of the partisan Falcon crowd, only to see Vaughn counter and give the Bears the lead for good, 28-26.
Hertford County closed the half making 3-of-4 free throws and a rainbow three-point shot from Simmons and the teams went to the locker room with the Bears ahead, 34-28.
The visitors came out playing better in the third quarter but were never able to pull away.
Bertie kept it a 6-or-7 point game for much of the frame until there were four minutes left. That’s when the Bears went on a run and built a ten-point lead, 49-39.
Hertford County got the lead up to 16 as they made four straight free throws and got a baseline layup from Ruffin. Morris and Brown broke the string with a pair of scores for Bertie and it was 55-43 with one quarter left to play.
The Bears kept the lead at a dozen-to-14 points through the first two minutes of the quarter before Bertie began fouling and Hertford County made six straight from the charity stripe, plus a Ruffin layup, and built a lead of 18 at 69-51.
Ruffin’s shot was the last one from the floor for the Bears. Meanwhile, Cherry, who suffered a groin injury late in the second quarter, couldn’t return late for Bertie, helping kill any chance at a Falcons comeback.
Seven-of-10 Hertford County made free throws closed out the contest as the Bears finished the regular season at 19-3. Bertie fell to 8-11.
“Dealing with a rival game, and being a young team meant we played a little too much to the crowd” said Jones. “But we open the tournament on the road and I think we play better away from home.”
“We played extremely hard,” said Simmons, “but we left some things out there we have to correct and if we do that we’ll be fine.”
“We’ve got to let the kids know that everybody is going to be shooting for us,” Simmons added with a grin.