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Falcons bounce back, top ‘Hawks

WINDSOR – How long did it take the Bertie boys basketball team to get over their first loss of the season? About two minutes and 15 seconds.

The Falcons – sectional finalists in the NCHSAA 3-A a season ago, and now playing in the 2-A ranks in the Northeastern Coastal Conference – dropped their first game of the year a week ago to Weldon, 39-36. Friday night on their home floor they opened conference play by sprinting out to a 9-0 lead and coasting to a 56-39 win over First Flight of Kill Devil Hills.

Keon Moore led all scorers with 18 points while Norman Cherry, III had 13. Isaac Allen contributed 11 points off the bench, and Wykevin Bazemore rounded out the double-figure scoring with t10n. That quartet scored all but four of the Falcons points that night.

Zach Robins led the Nighthawks in scoring with nine.

Thanks to their rebounding and pressure defense the Falcons were able to score 23 points off First Flight turnovers.

“Fortunately, tonight some shots went in,” said smiling second-year Bertie coach Lester Lyons after the game. “That’s opposed to the other night in Weldon when it seemed like none were going in.

“It was good to see our kids come out and play defense,” he added, “because we really didn’t shoot it that well tonight so I felt we had to get some lay-ups to make our shooting a little better.”

Bertie opened the tilt with their transition game working to perfection as they scored the first nine points. Moore got the first five points on a three-pointer and a baseline lay-up. Bazemore then drove the lane for a floating lay-up just before Cherry hit a long jumper just inside the three-point line.

Steve Saunders broke the First Flight drought with a lay-up at the other end to make it, 9-2, but back came the Falcons with Bazemore making a twisting lay-up between two defenders down the middle of the lane.

Bertie then applied the pressure defense in the backcourt to force a First Flight turnover and Cherry converted at the other end with a three-pointer to make it, 14-2.

Cherry and Allen hit back-to-back three-pointers coming off a Nighthawks turnovers to make it 17-2 before Robins got the first of his trio of treys to close out the scoring for the quarter with Bertie ahead, 17-5.

First Flight coach Chad Williams switched to a man-to-man defense in the second quarter and set screens for his shooters in the corner. The Nighthawks then dropped a pair of three-pointers to get within eight points three minutes before halftime at, 19-11, but Cherry hit another three-pointer to push the lead back to double-figures at 22-11.

With the Nighthawks racking up fouls in the post, First Flight was forced to play a smaller line-up up front, and Bertie exploited the baseline with driving lay-ups. First Flight kept pace with their outside shooting and the Falcons went into the locker room up by a dozen at the break, 28-16.

First Flight found itself unable to chip away at the lead in the third quarter and the Nighthawks’ foul trouble kept sending Bertie to the free-throw line where the Falcons made 10-of-17 to make it an 18-point bulge with a quarter left to play, 47-29.

Lyons pretty much cleared his bench in the final frame and the Nighthawks outscored the Falcons, 16-9 over the final eight minutes but the outcome was decided by then and the Falcons upped their overall record to 5-1 with their conference-opening win. First Flight fell to 4-2 and 0-1 in the NCC.

“We’ve been thinking ‘pressure, pressure, pressure’ all year,” said Lyons, “and that’s how we’re going to play with a lot of trapping defense and the press. Whatever works for our team to get lay-ups because right now we don’t shoot it that well.”

“Their big shots put us behind the eight-ball early,” said a disappointed coach Williams, who saw his team’s two-game win streak snapped. “We’re not a team that plays well from behind and I thought we shot it kind of quick and turned it over way too much.

“They played their strength right to our weakness,” he added shaking his head with a smile, “just jumping on us because of all those turnovers; but we played scrappy right to the end.”

Bertie is at home for Pasquotank tonight, then off to Elizabeth City Northeastern on Friday. They will then play three games in a holiday tournament at Currituck in Barco beginning December 21.