Bears recapture Classic crown

Published 10:05 am Thursday, December 31, 2009

AHOSKIE – Charles Simmons is ranked in the top 10 statewide in basketball victories among active coaches.

And while the veteran basketball boss has led his squads to more than 400 victories, win number 458 will be a special one.

Tuesday night Simmons guided the Bears to an unprecedented 11th Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic championship with a 72-69 win over rival Bertie High School.

“I’m really excited for our young athletes,” Simmons said. “Many of them were on the team last year when we suffered that first round loss. I was determined it wouldn’t happen again and so were they.”

While the Bears were able to get the victory, the issue was in doubt to the very end with the Bears holding off a late Bertie rally to claim the championship.

The Bears held a 65-55 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Falcons cut the advantage in half thanks to a triple by Norman Cherry and a bucket by Devonte Wiggins.

Dontez Tyler stopped the spurt with a hoop for the Bears, but Bertie came back with Wiggins and Cherry hitting consecutive baskets to close the gap to 67-64.

The Bears, however, came right back at their rivals when Tyler scored and added a free throw and Dekimis Perry chipped in a free throw as the Bears surged ahead 71-64.

The Falcons got another three-pointer from Cherry, who was named to the All-Tournament Team following the event, but a Perry free throw in the final seconds helped the Bears hold a two-possession lead (72-67) before Bertie’s WyKevin Bazemore scored as the clock expired.

The win was a big one for the Bears in many ways. The HCHS squad, which has won 20 games in most of the last five seasons, entered the tournament with a 2-3 record. They won both contests to exit the event 4-3 overall as they head into a three-game test next week.

“It feels good,” Simmons said. “The kids needed the confidence booster. I’m proud of them. They could have quit, but I told them the season was young and if we keep working, we’ll win some basketball games. They bought into that and worked hard which paid off Tuesday night.”

HCHS Senior Antonio Vaughan, playing in just his second game of the season following an injury in football, started the contest with a three-pointer for the Bears, but Bertie answered with a Keon Moore hoop.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Jordan Jones hit two free throws for the Bears to push their advantage to 5-2, but then it was the Falcons who took over the offensive flow.

Bazemore sandwiched four free throws around a Cherry bucket to push the Falcons to an 8-5 lead before Petey Boone buried a triple to deadlock the score.

Moore, however, responded with six unanswered points and then Bazemore buried a triple to give the Falcons a 15-8 lead.

Perry stopped the spurt temporarily with a hoop for HCHS, but Bertie got four straight off hoops from Thomas Perry and Moore to take their biggest lead of the night at 19-10.

After an exchange of scores, the Bears trailed 20-12 until a Markee White hoop sparked a 7-0 run that closed the gap to one point. White had two hoops during the spurt and Vaughan had a triple as they got to within 20-19.

A Darius Moody bucket for Bertie gave the Falcons a 22-19 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Bertie added to the advantage when the third quarter started with Moore burying a three-pointer that made it 25-19.

Hertford County, however, roared back getting back-to-back hoops by Vaughan and Jones before Vaughan and D’Isaac Jordan each buried a three-pointer. Jordan closed out the run with a hoop that put the Bears ahead 31-25.

Isaac Allen stopped the HCHS run with a three-pointer and Cherry added a pair of free throws as the Falcons closed within 31-30.

Jones had a bucket for the Bears, but Allen hit a three-pointer followed by a Cherry hoop to give Bertie a 35-33 lead. The teams went back and forth with the game tied twice before a Jaquan Jordan free throw gave the Falcons a 39-38 lead at the intermission.

The third quarter started with the Falcons getting consecutive shots from Cherry and Bazemore to take a 43-38 lead. The teams went back-and-forth over the next few minutes before a Boone triple sparked an 8-0 Hertford County run.

Vaughan contributed a hoop and Jones added a bucket and a free throw as the Bears pulled ahead 51-47.

Bazemore scored for the Falcons to close the gap to a pair (51-49), but a hoop by Derrick Benthall and a triple by Vaughan sent the Bears into the fourth quarter with a 56-49 edge.

Tyler started the final period with a hoop, but was answered by Arthur Vines of the Falcons. Jones then rolled off three straight points to give Hertford County a 10-point lead (61-51).

The teams exchanged baskets with the Bears eventually leading 65-55 setting up the final run.

“I was really pleased with our offensive and defensive intensity tonight,” Simmons stressed. “We hit some key shots when we needed them. Overall, this was a great team effort.”

After the tournament, Jones was named MVP. Joining him on the All-Tournament Team from HCHS were Vaughan, Boone and Perry. Bertie placed Bazemore and Cherry on the squad. Rounding out the team were Jamar Williams of Northampton County High School – East and Corey Davis of Gates County High School.

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic is sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty.