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Lady Falcons earn fifth title

AHOSKIE – &uot;We played like champions.&uot;

That one statement from Bertie High School varsity girls basketball coach Alice Bennett-Lyons perfectly summed-up her team’s performance here Wednesday night where the Lady Falcons overcame a slow start to capture their fifth straight Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic title by disposing of rival Hertford County, 61-32, in the girls championship game.

&uot;Hertford County really came at us hard tonight,&uot; Bennett-Lyons added. &uot;But we were able to hang in there and then took advantage of some steals and fast-break baskets there early in the third quarter, which totally changed the game.&uot;

Despite being outplayed and outhustled in the first half, Bertie managed to forge a narrow 18-17 lead at the break. But the momentum changed quickly, and so did the scoreboard, to open the second half.

There, a smothering Bertie defense forced the Lady Bears into a half-dozen turnovers over the opening three minutes. That, coupled with a torrid shooting touch by the Lady Falcons (they connected on 9 of their first 10 shots), allowed Bertie to reel off 16 unanswered points en route to a commanding 34-17 lead.

Holiday Classic MVP Jessica Breland, who has a full athletic ride waiting at UNC-Chapel Hill, fueled that run with three baskets while teammate Tierra Perry, an All-Tournament selection, added a pair of hoops.

Breland finished with game-highs in both points (29) and rebounds (22). She also blocked five shots.

Hertford County’s Kenya Cofield finally ended Bertie’s big run by completing a three-point play at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter. The Lady Bears tried to battle their way back, using baskets from Chiquitta Holloman and Cofield to close out the period followed by a trey and two free throws by Jamie Britt to open the fourth quarter, as they drew as close as 12 (42-30).

However, just as they had done to open the second half, Bertie was able to close just as strong as Breland scored 14 points down the stretch to protect her team’s double-digit advantage.

&uot;This game just got away from us at the start of the second half,&uot; Joan McCullough, Hertford County’s head coach, said. &uot;But I’m still proud of our effort. We didn’t give up and we fought to the very end. This was a moral victory for us.&uot;

McCullough’s girls started the game with an intensity level the unbeaten Bertie squad (now 10-0) could not match.

Thanks to a pair of Holloman baskets sandwiched around a hoop each from Ashley Weaver and Rasheema Speller plus a defensive effort that limited Bertie to a dismal 1-of-14 effort from the field over the opening eight minutes, HCHS held an 8-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.

To open the second quarter, Breland began to shake-off the effects of a box-and-one defense designed to slow down the senior standout as she banked-in a deuce in the paint and then stepped behind the three-point arc to bury a trey that gave Bertie its first lead at 9-8.

From that point until the halftime buzzer, these two old rivals went at it in a classic confrontation. Bertie &uot;jabbed&uot; behind the play of Ashley Berryman, Satora Swain and Perry while HCHS &uot;counterpunched&uot; with Speller, Holloman and Britt leading the way.

Holloman, who turned in one of her best performances on the backboards where she yanked down 16 rebounds, was named to the All-Tournament Team, as was Cofield.

Joining Breland and Perry on the All-Tournament Team were Berryman and Courtney Winborne.

Lady Falcons (61)

Jessica Breland – 29, Ashley Berryman – 14, Tierra Perry – 10, Winborne – 4, Swain – 2, Watson – 2.

FG: 24-of-68 (3-pointers: 2-of-15). FT: 11-of-20. Turnovers: 18. Rebounds: 46 (Breland – 22, Perry – 5).

Lady Bears (32)

Britt – 9, Holloman – 8, Cofield – 7, Speller – 4, Weaver – 2, Wilder – 2.

FG: 14-of-58 (3-pointers: 2-of-21). FT: 2-of-2. Turnovers: 27. Rebounds: 38 (Holloman – 16, Britt – 4).