Bears’ defense turns it up a notch

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AHOSKIE – If Hertford County is to reach their goal of repeating as Northeastern Coastal Conference champions, defense will likely be the key.

Friday night the Bears showed their defense is learning to step up to the occasion.

After trailing until late in the first quarter, the Bears forced numerous turnovers in the second period and took the lead, allowing them to race to a 76-45 Northeastern Coastal Conference win over Edenton.

Overall, the Bears forced 20 turnovers and defense was the main reason for HCHS claiming their sixth conference win in seven starts. With the victory, the Bears remain in second place in the league at 6-1 with a 10-6 overall mark.

“I was really pleased with the defensive effort, especially in the second half,” said HCHS coach Charles Simmons. “In the first half, we were mainly in a half court with a double team. We decided to go full court to open the third quarter and were successful.

“I was pleased because the kids really got after it,” he added. “We were able to rotate kids in and out and everybody got to play, which is always nice.”

The Bears opened the second quarter with back-to-back hoops from Jordan Jones and Antonio Vaughan as they pushed ahead 22-18. Antonio Futrell then buried a triple and Vaughan scored again from the floor as HCHS grabbed a 27-18 advantage with 4:51 to play in the first half.

Edenton answered thanks to a Tyquan Fleming three-pointer, but the Bears continued to pull away. Vaughan scored again followed by a Petey Boone triple, a pair of free throws from Dontez Tyler and another bucket by Vaughan as HCHS led 36-21 with 2:14 to play in the second period.

The Aces got a free throw from Dominique Rountree, but Shabazz Atkins scored with 30 seconds to play to give Hertford County a 38-22 lead at the intermission.

Hertford County opened the second half in a full court press and forced half a dozen turnovers early. The result was a 7-2 run for the home team that allowed the Bears to run out to a 45-22 lead with 6:08 to play in the third quarter.

With Simmons substituting liberally over the closing minutes of the third period, the two teams stayed relatively close with Edenton getting a hoop as the quarter closed to get within 54-33.

Hertford County got the first basket of the fourth quarter when Tyler hit from the floor, but the Aces responded when Rountree buried a triple that made it 56-36.

Atkins sandwiched a pair of hoops around a Derrick Benthall bucket to help the Bears extend their lead to 62-36. They were able to put it on cruise control from there and coast to the 31-point win.

Vaughan paced the Bears with a perfect night – going 8-for-8 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the free throw line – to score 18 points.

“Antonio knows how to finish,” Simmons said. “We got to get more kids to finish the way he does. He goes to the hole and finishes and the rest of our guards need to learn to do the same thing.”

Boone and Atkins added 14 each for Hertford County and Benthall chipped in nine. Rountree led Edenton with 14 points.

The victory keeps the Bears in pace with league-leading Bertie and gives them the opportunity to keep pushing for the conference title – a goal Simmons said his team still has.

“”I feel really good about this team right now,” Simmons said. “We’ve lost a few kids for different reasons, but I like the 10 guys that we have. We have good chemistry and the work in practice is excellent.

“We had a goal to be the conference champions and we still do,” he added. “We have made progress, but we certainly have our work cut out for us next week with trips to First Flight and Northeastern.”