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Burke on sidelines as Spartanburg visits RCCC

AHOSKIE – A hall of fame coach returning to the sidelines.

A college team with just six players.

A game that went down to the wire.

The storylines from Sunday afternoon’s matchup between Roanoke-Chowan Community College and Spartanburg Methodist College were as varied as the game itself.

In the end the visiting Pioneers pulled out a 77-66 win thanks to the coaching expertise of Hall of Famer Bob Burke. The former Chowan College coach came out of retirement to pinch-hit for his son, Rob, who has served as Head Coach at Spartanburg Methodist for the past five seasons. The younger Burke was serving a one-game suspension as mandated by the National Junior College Athletic Association for receiving two technical fouls against Aiken Tech.

While Burke, the elder statesman, pulled out the victory, Roanoke-Chowan coach Burnell Hills had his “Super Six” ready for action as they got as close as six (72-66) with just under two minutes to play.

“Anytime you play hard and get back in a game like that, it’s a pleasure,” Hills said. “We are at a disadvantage with just six players, but the kids were impressive. We had a chance, but we made too many turnovers at the end.”

Spartanburg built their biggest lead (68-49) with 5:07 to play in the second half, but the Waves rallied to close the gap. Jacob Dunlow buried a three-pointer and as followed by Darryl Patterson who hit both ends of a 1-plus-1 to close the gap to 68-52.

Following a free throw by the Pioneers, D’Antre Person hit a triple and Steven Brickell hit two free throws as the Waves were within 10 (69-59) with 3:34 left to play.

Anton Greer converted a three-point play to push Spartanburg back ahead by 13, but Roanoke-Chowan went on a 7-0 spurt that got them to within six. Patterson hit the first shot of the spurt and was followed by a hoop from Person and another triple by Dunlow.

The Pioneers, however, closed the door on the comeback with a hoop by Rashawn Alex Brailsford and free throws by Brailsford and Vernon Taylor.

“I thought we played pretty good defense over the first 12 minutes of the second half and that opened the game up for us,” said Bob Burke after the contest. “It was an unusual game to play because both teams are short-handed in personnel and can’t play like you really want to for the full 40 minutes.”

Burke said Hills had to worry about fouls with only six players and he thought that kept him from playing a man-to-man defense that was successful for the Waves at times.

“If he had been able to play man-to-man the entire game, it might have been a little tighter,” Burke said.

Hills agreed.

“We want to play an up-tempo game and press full court or play tight man-to-man,” Hills said. “You can’t do that with only six players.”

Person led the attack for Roanoke-Chowan with 22 points while Patterson chipped in 21 points. Brickell had 12, Dunlow added nine and Mark Satterwhite finished with four.

Andrew Crawford led Spartanburg Methodist with 17 while Brailsford had 16, Taylor 14 and Austin Edens 10 points.

In the first half, Spartanburg raced out to an early 6-0 lead thanks to Crawford, who scored all of those points.

The Waves rallied behind Satterwhite, Person and Patterson as they took the lead 21-18 on a Person three-pointer with 4:11 to play in the first half.

The Pioneers, however, rallied and consecutive three-pointers by Edens gave them a 28-23 lead at the intermission.

After the game, both Hills and Burke said the day went well and was different.

“Anytime you have the pleasure to coach against a legend, that is a thrill,” Hills said. “Coach Burke and what he did at Chowan, right here in Hertford County, is amazing.”

Burke said being back on the sidelines was “strange.”

“I haven’t been a head coach in six years and it’s ironic to be in Hertford County to make my debut back so to speak,” he said. “I was asked to pinch hit and I got a single, not a homerun, but a single.”

Burke said he was pleased to see old players and friends in the stands and to renew some old acquaintances.

“You can’t take good friendships and good memories awa