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Falcons hold off Nighthawks

WINDSOR – This ‘bird-battle’ had everything the fans could ask for.

The Bertie Falcons boys basketball team staved off what might have been a monumental upset at the hands of the First Flight Nighthawks and prevailed, 61-58, in overtime to bounce back from Bertie’s loss the previous weekend to Weldon.

Tyson Perry scored the final four points with less than a minute to play in overtime to help the Falcons to their 14th win of the year. Perry finished with 22 points to lead the Bertie scoring.

Wykevin Bazemore finished with 14 points and six rebounds while Keon Moore added nine points and also pulled down six caroms. Chris Richardson and Travis Bond had four points each, with Bond collecting five rebounds and three blocked shots.

Anders Jacobsen led all scorers with 23 points for First Flight (10-7). Teammate Steven Saunders had 17 including a three-point basket that forced overtime.

“I told the guys I love this better than anything,” said a smiling Falcons coach Lester Lyons after the game, “because that’s why you play the game of basketball, for games like this.”

But as jubilant as the Falcons were in securing the win, there was disappointment in the Nighthawks’ locker room over the one they may have let get away.

“I got 14 sad guys in this locker room right now,” said Nighthawks coach Chad Williams, “and if it don’t hurt then they don’t need to be in here right now.

“But I’ve got nothing negative to say,” he added. “Both teams have improved and Lester’s done a great job with them. It’s just unfortunate we just came up a little short.”

Bertie raced out to an 18-13 lead in the first quarter thanks to solid play on the wings with Bazemore able to shoot over the Nighthawks’ zone and First Flight missing its first three field-goal attempts.

As both teams settle in, Jacobsen and Saunders began to find their comfort range with their jump-shooting and the Nighthawks only trailed by five entering the second quarter.

The second quarter featured much more physical play from both teams, and while Bertie was able to establish better play in the low-post, First Flight was patient on offense and it kept the Nighthawks within striking distance of the Falcons.

Bertie’s biggest lead was eight at 30-22 on a Norman Cherry jumper with less than three minutes to play. Patrick McCarthy then got a put-back for First Flight to make it 30-24, but Perry answered at the other end with a three-pointer and Bertie would lead 32-25 at halftime.

The spread offense that had worked well for the Nighthawks late in the second quarter began to really pay off in the third. Bertie also began to rack up fouls and First Flight made a three-point field goal to get within two points at 34-32. Bertie then fouled Jacobsen on his very next three-point attempt and his three foul shots gave First Flight their first lead of the night at 35-34.

Bazemore answered with a three-pointer and two Perry free throws put Bertie back in the lead, but the Nighthawks would not go away. Saunders and Jacobsen ignited a 7-0 run to allow First Flight to retake the lead the game see-sawed for the next two minutes.

It looked as if the Falcons had secured the game when Jamie Wentz picked up his third foul at the two-minute mark and Bond’s put-back had Bertie in front, 51-48.

First Flight then held the ball for nearly a minute and a half when with 19 seconds left, Saunders got free on a screen and nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 51-all and send the wildly-cheering Nighthawk fans into a frenzy.

Moore drove the left side of the court on the in-bounds, but dribbled the ball off his leg with two seconds left for a turnover, but First Flight’s desperation-heave at the buzzer missed to force overtime.

Perry made two free-throws to open the scoring in the extra frame, but on First Flight’s first possession Jacobsen drove hard to the basket and banked in a shot over Bond, who fouled him for a three-point play and the Nighthawks led 54-53.

Bazemore’s lay-up in the paint gave Bertie the lead again. The Falcons fouled on the play up-court, but First Flight missed the 1-plus-1.

Bond rebounded the miss with an outlet to Perry who missed a short jumper, but Bazemore was there for the put-back and a three-point Bertie lead. McCarthy was fouled again, but missed the shot. That miss set up Perry’s heroics which allowed Bertie (14-2) to persevere for the win.

“I told our guys we had to defend home court,” said Lyons, “because everybody coming in here from now on is going to give it their best.

“We’re building,” he added. “And as it builds we hope it peaks in the playoffs.”