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Falcons capture Sectional title

WINDSOR – They had to win it twice.

Actually, it was three times.

Never mind the stifling heat as their fans mobbed the team on the floor to the loud strains of dance music, the Bertie High boys basketball team celebrated their first trip to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Eastern Regional in 37 years with a 72-61 double-overtime win over Jacksonville Friday night in Windsor.

Bertie is now headed to Williams Arena – Minges Coliseum at East Carolina University later this week to face Northern Guilford.

“I told our guys that ’09 was our time and we had to be ready to take our shot,” said jubilant first-year coach Lester Lyons. “It was so beautiful to win it like this.”

This is how the scenario unfolded: the Falcons rallied from 11 points down at the end of the first quarter to lead late in the game only to see that lead evaporate with less than a minute to play. They then got a key turnover and snowbird layup that would have been the game-winner only to have that waved off by the officials and then needed double-overtime to secure that bus ride to Minges.

That’s something to dance about.

Tyson Perry led the Falcons attack with 22 points, 13 of them coming in the two overtimes. Keon Moore had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Detrique Baker led three Cardinal players in double-figures with 19.

Both teams seemed to have game-time jitters, each missed their first six shots. Two-and-a-half minutes into the game Perry broke the drought with a layup, and then scored six straight. Jacksonville rallied to within one at 6-5 before Norman Cherry’s three-point play and Travis Bond ‘s short jumper closed the quarter with Bertie ahead, 11-7.

Jacksonville opened the second quarter with a three-pointer and a layup off a Bertie miss to take their first lead at 12-11. The lead see-sawed before Baker’s layup put Jacksonville back in front for the rest of the half at 18-16. The Cards went on a 9-0 run to close quarter and enter the locker room ahead, 27-16.

Bertie owned the third quarter with play became more physical both in the post and on the wing with 12 fouls whistled between the teams. Bertie took advantage of Cardinal fouls in the back court with an 11-2 run that got them within both two points and one point twice. The last time came when Bond hit a layup with two defenders hanging onto him to make it 34-33.

Perry’s free throw tied it and on the next possession, Darius Wesson’s put-back gave Bertie its first lead since early in the second quarter. The Falcons were ahead 36-34 entering the last eight minutes of regulation.

The Cards tied it at 37-all when Bond rebounded a Jacksonville miss and tossed the outlet to Perry who fired a pass ahead to a wide-open Moore for a dunk that brought the overflow Bertie crowd to its feet. But the Cards made 5-of-6 free throws to retake the lead, 44-43.

Chris Richardson was fouled following a Cards miss, and his two freebies gave the lead back to Bertie but the lead see-sawed thanks to trips to the foul line until Chris Richardson got a steal and Wy’Kevin Bazemore’s layup staked Bertie to a 48-46 lead only to see the Cards tie it on a layup off a screen.

The Falcons seemed to be going for the clincher when a jump-ball call gave the ball back to Jacksonville. Perry was fouled and it looked like he would win it at the free throw line, but he missed both tosses and the Cardinals grabbed the carom with nine seconds left.

Bertie tightened their man-to-man defense and Perry made a swipe at the ball that Jacksonville fumbled allowing Perry to grab the loose rock. Perry rocketed a pass ahead to Moore who looked to be zeroing in on a Bertie win; but as Moore laid the ball in before it appeared the light behind the backboard came on, the refs screaming whistles and waving arms indicated a no-good call and screaming fans had to be hustled off the court; ending the game in regulation tied 48-48.

Bertie was so inconsonant after the end-call they were slow to respond in overtime. A free throw and a three-pointer put the Cards up by four. Bazemore then fouled out and two more free throws had Jacksonville looking like the team making Greenville plans.

The Cards had a seven-point lead, 59-52, with 1:12 to go in the OT when Bertie awoke.

In less than 12 seconds Moore scored five points off a jump shot, a steal and a three pointer. Perry was fouled 13 seconds later and his pair of charity chippies tied it at 59.

Each team attempted to score in its spread offense, but both attempts clanked off the rim and the horn sounded with the game still all-square and four more minutes needed to determine a winner.

This time, Bertie was focused. Bond was fouled and made 1-of-2. The six-four UNC football signee then rebounded a Jacksonville miss and Perry’s subsequent layup had the crowd back on its feet and the Falcons up three.

Perry closed with four of Bertie’s six successful free-throws and added a layup as the buzzer sounded – this time for the last time – and setting off the wild celebration.

“I told our guys we were conference champs and made it to the third round of the playoffs,” said a disappointed Cards coach Mike Ark. “We’re just now becoming a basketball team,” he added, “and I’m proud of every one of them.”

For Lyons, this week will also be a homecoming as he returns to the arena where he starred as a collegiate player for the Pirates back in the nineties

“Yeah,” he grinned, “I’m excited to be going back. We played in front of some big crowds.”