Lady Falcons nearly pull it off

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2008

AHOSKIE – For a while the impossible seemed possible.

The Lady Nighthawks of First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills had taken the measure of Bertie High’s girls three previous times this season, and with a vocal and raucous crowd of Bertie fans in attendance at Hertford County High School gymnasium Friday night it looked for a while like the Lady Falcons would break the losing streak.

Instead, a pair of free throws from Kristina Argiroff with 17 seconds left and two more from Paige Murray a dozen ticks later would ice the game and clip the last of the Falcons’ wings as the Nighthawks escaped with a 54-50 win for their fourth win over Bertie this season and clinching for the Outer Banks ladies the Northeastern Coastal Conference tournament championship.

Ayanna Wilson led Bertie’s scoring with 12 points and junior Tiara Brown had 10.  Meanwhile, senior Argiroff scored a career-high 27 for First Flight as the Nighthawks – ranked number-three in the latest poll – raised their record to 24-1.

&uot;I’m still proud of my girls,&uot; said a disappointed Bertie coach Alice Lyons (she has dropped the hyphen and the Bennett and returned to using just her maiden name). &uot;A couple of bounces going my way, and it would have been a different ball game.&uot;

A couple of more free throw eggs falling into the Falcons’ nest and it might’ve been a different game, too.  Bertie only made 9-of-26 charity tosses in the second half, despite getting to the line twice as many times as First Flight.

&uot;They (Bertie) hit the foul shots,&uot; said a relieved First Flight coach Rex Sponhaltz, &uot;(and) we’re in trouble.  We probably don’t win.&uot;

Bertie opened the game hitting their first two field goals over the Nighthawks’ 2-3 zone for a 4-0 lead that the Falcons built to 8-2 before First Flight reeled off nine unanswered for an 11-8 lead thanks to scores off of Bertie turnovers. The Falcons had five miscues after the first quarter, but only trailed 13-10.

It was 15-10, Nighthawks early in the second quarter when Argiroff hit a free throw and a field goal to give First Flight their biggest lead of the night at 18-10.

But that’s when the Falcons sharpened their talons and began a comeback. Devona Bond hit a pair of free throws, but more importantly, those tosses were sandwiched between a pair of three-pointers from freshman sharp-shooter, Wilson; and in just 36 seconds, Bertie had tied the game at 18-all.

It was 20-20 when Wilson drained another pair of treys, the first one giving Bertie a 23-20 lead.  After a free throw, Argiroff silenced the Bertie crowd with a long trey of her own to re-take the lead for the Nighthawks at 24-23; then after Wilson’s shot, Argiroff drained two free throws before the buzzer for the 26-26 halftime tie.

After trading early buckets to open the third quarter Bertie got two free throws and YaShanti Bridgers – scoreless in the first half – made a follow-shot to give Bertie their second four-point lead, 32-28; but just as quickly Argiroff made two field goals to tie it.

Capitalizing once again on Bertie misses and miscues, First Flight outscored the Falcons, 12-6, for a six-point lead, 44-38, entering the fourth quarter.

Bertie cut the lead to three at 48-45 early in the final frame before Carolyn O’Neill made a pair of lay-ups in the paint over Falcon defenders to make it 50-45 with just over three minutes to play.  Bertie continued to draw fouls underneath, but were unable to capitalize because of missed free throws.

Then Tiara Brown got a steal and a lay-up and Bridgers broke the free throw drought with a pair and then was fouled on a lay-up, but missed the and-one, so the score remained tied at 50-all with 1:05 to play.

Meagan Gomez missed a free throw for First Flight and though the Nighthawks rebounded the miss, Brown stole the ball, but lost control dribbling up-court as Argiroff made a steal and was fouled as time wound down. Argiroff’s tosses plus the other pair by Murray made for the margin of victory.   

Sponhaltz was named NCC &uot;Coach of the Year&uot; while the conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, Jasmine Whitehurst of Pasquotank, was named &uot;Player of the Year&uot;.

Bertie’s season (17-7) will continue when they open the NCHSAA state playoffs next week at home against 8-13 Kinston High School.


Lady Nighthawks (54): Kristina Argiroff: 27, Carolyn O’Neill: 10, Paige Murray: 9, Alisha Perry: 4, Meagan Gomez 2, Linsey Robertson: 2


Lady Falcons (50): Ayanna Wilson: 12, Tiara Brown: 10, Yashanti Bridgers: 8, Devona Bond: 8, Satora Swain: 6, Tiffany Chamblee: 4, Montriesha Perry: 2