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Lady Falcons bow out

WINDSOR – Even the towels couldn’t stop them.

The South Central girl’s basketball coaches waved towels over the players’ huddle during time-outs in the sweltering heat of the Bertie High gym Friday night, but the constant fanning did little to cool off the hot shooting, as the Lady Falcons won the bird battle– and the NCHSAA sectional crown – against the Lady Falcons of Bertie, 61-55.

It marked the second straight year and third time since 2004 Bertie was eliminated just one game from making a trip to the 3-A girls Eastern Regional this week in Greenville.

“I have no regrets,” a solemn, but smiling coach Alice Lyons said after the game, shaking her head from side-to-side. “It was a good ride, and we had a good season. The boys team winning takes some of the sting out of it, but I have no regrets and neither should my team.”

Bertie ends its season at 24-2 and suffered their first loss of the season on their home court.

Equalia Vines led the Falcons with 18 points and nine rebounds while Tiera Brown had 11 points. Amber Clark led three SC players in double-figures with 16.

A small but quick team, South Central (28-0) used their defense to force eight Bertie turnovers in the first quarter and used it to roar out to a 14-0 lead as Bertie missed its first eight shots. A Vines lay-up at the 3:12 mark finally broke the shutout, but SC ended the quarter ahead, 22-5.

Vines continued her solid play inside in the second quarter and got help on the perimeter from Brown and Montresha Perry, but South Central was able to counter with strong outside shooting. Bertie center Yashanti Bridgers, double-teamed all night in the low post, by the tight SC man-to-man defense still collected 12 rebounds.

Vines made two free throws with 2:15 left to cut Bertie’s deficit to 15, but the home team missed three of their next four foul shots and Brown’s free throw with less than 30 seconds to play left Bertie down 37-18 at halftime.

The one bright spot for Bertie beginning the second half was that the rough play inside racked up fouls for South Central, and three minutes into the third quarter SC’s top inside threat, Haley McCorkle, fouled out of the game. Vines got a layup and a free throw then made 1-of-2 foul shots on the next play to get Bertie within 11 at 41-30.

South Central found themselves having to sub, and Brown exploited SC’s inexperienced bench with two quick steals and layups and Bertie was within seven at 41-34. South Central, however, made 3-of-4 free throws to close out the quarter up by 10, 44-34.

Bridgers regained a height advantage inside against the South Central post players off the bench and made a couple of buckets to pull Bertie within eight, but the inconsistent Bertie free-throw shooting kept them from cutting further into the SC lead.

With four minutes to play, and the score 50-40, Eboni Bond made 1-of-2 at the line. On the miss, Vines put a spin move on her opponent, grabbed the carom, and the put-back pulled Bertie within seven, 50-43.

On Bertie’s next possession, Brown hit a rainbow jumper and Bertie was within five at 50-45. Two plays later, Ayanna Wilson made a swipe in the open court and drove downcourt for the layup and at 2:43 Bertie was within four, 51-47.

South Central then went into a spread offense to burn some time off the clock and forcing Bertie to foul. Unfortunately, they were fouling Clark and Ja’Nesha Ebron who made 6-of-7 free throws between them. Eboni Bond swished a three-pointer just before the buzzer, but it was too little too late as the Bertie comeback fell short by six.

“We did what we wanted to do in the first half,” said South Central coach Mary Bryant Carlyle, “and that was knock them back early because we knew Bertie was a good second-half team.

“I told our girls a lot of good teams were going home after tonight,” she added, nodding toward the Bertie locker-room, “and Bertie is one of them. Bertie should be proud of what they did.”

“I told (boys coach) Lester one of us would make it tonight,” said a smiling Lyons. “I just wish it could have been two.”