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Bertie beats Bears

AHOSKIE – Bertie and Hertford County have locked into some memorable battles on the hardwood over the years. Saturday night was no exception.

Rwenshaun Miller sank a short shot from point blank range as time expired as Bertie celebrated a thrilling 64-62 win over rival Hertford County to win the 14th annual Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic in front of a packed house of New Year’s Day revelers at the HCHS gym.

The win was an improbable one for the Falcons who seemingly were outclassed in the first half by an HCHS squad that was better rested after defeating Northampton-East in Thursday’s semifinals. Bertie had to wait until Friday to motor past Gates County in their semifinal matchup.

&uot;We had to make a mental adjustment at halftime,&uot; said Bertie interim head coach Tony Hoggard who called the win the biggest of his career.

Hoggard continued, &uot;Hertford County simply intimidated us in the first half. We let them set the tempo and took us completely out of the things we like to do. I challenged my guys at halftime to just go out and play Bertie’s style of basketball in the second half. Win or lose, that’s what we were going to do.&uot;

The Falcons heeded their coach’s advice, especially Casey Owens who was held to a mere two free throws over the opening 16 minutes of action. Owens came out on fire in the second half, burying four, three-point baskets and a pair of deuces en route to a game-high 18-point effort that led the senior sharpshooter to MVP honors.

&uot;Casey was feeling it there in the second half, as was the entire team,&uot; noted Hoggard in reference to his club sinking 17 of its 33, second half shots, including a 5-of-12 effort from behind the three-point arc (4 by Owens). &uot;We decided to ride Casey’s hot hand as far as it would take us.&uot;

As things turned out, that was a good decision.

After a HCHS turnover, Terrell Holley tied the contest at 62-all when his soft finger-roll in the lane found its mark with nine seconds remaining. Four seconds later, HCHS missed the front end of a 1-plus-one. Two quick passes later, a wide-open Miller found the ball in his hands under the basket and easily sank the game-winner.

The first half was a much different story.

After battling their rivals for a 16-15, first quarter lead, HCHS began to pull away. Sparked by three baskets by LaMarcus Bond and a pair from Marcus Burnell, the Bears flexed their offensive muscle and built a 33-22 halftime lead.

But the Falcons came out with a renewed purpose in the second half. There, with big man Billy McShepard using his height advantage down in the paint, plus Owens’ deadly accuracy from the perimeter, Bertie sank 10 of their 18, third quarter shots (3-of-5 from three-point range) and trailed by only three (49-46) heading into the fourth quarter.

Bertie also did a better job in the second half of protecting the basketball. There, they turned the ball over only five times after suffering 11 miscues in the first half.

Tydreke Powell was the Bears bright spot in the third quarter, sinking three baskets off offensive rebounds, part of his 12-point effort.

Bertie’s comeback continued into the fourth quarter where the Falcons grabbed their first lead (55-53) since earlier in the game. Back came the Bears as Wayne Pryor sandwiched a pair of baskets around a Powell hoop that staked HCHS to a 60-55 lead with 2:03 remaining.

But that five-point advantage failed to hold as another long-range bomb from Owens refired the Bertie offense and the Falcons polished off their comeback with steady play down the stretch.

Bertie (64)

Casey Owens – 18, Terrell Holley – 14, Kent Bazemore – 11, Rwenshaun Miller – 10, B. McShepard – 7, T. Vaughan – 4.

FG: 26-of-67 (3-pointers: 7-of-16). FT: 5-of-13. Rebounds: 34 (McShepard – 9, Bazemore – 8, Vaughan – 4). Turnovers: 16.

Hertford County (62)

Ken Lee – 14, Tydreke Powell – 12, M. Burnell – 6, L. Bond – 6, F. Gatling – 6, L. Monger – 6, W. Pryor – 5, L. Burnell – 4, L. Jenkins – 3.

FG: 27-of-77 (3-pointers: 3-of-11). FT: 5-of-8. Rebounds: 52 (Gatling – 10, Lee – 8, Powell – 8, L. Burnell – 6). Turnovers: 18.