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Bertie edges East in OT

AHOSKIE – Just as the area had three snowfalls to close out the year, Bertie High boys basketball coach Lester Lyons was looking for a third trip to the finals of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty.

The Falcons took the first step, winning their opening-round game, 69-60 in overtime, over Northampton County-East.

But like the snowplows that made constant trips up and down the byways of the area earlier last week they needed ‘extra effort’ to clear the way.

Norman Cherry III paced the Falcons in their winning effort with 24 points, 14 in the first half; while the Bazemore brothers, Wykevin and Tykevis, scored 18 and 12 points, respectively.

Sheleik Jacobs led the way for the Rams with 19 points, including a crucial steal and layup with a minute left to tie the score and force overtime. Despite several chances to salt away the game in regulation, Bertie needed the extra period and won it there by outscoring East, 17-to-8.

“We had a lot of days off for Christmas,” said Lyons afterward. “Snow hurt us because we couldn’t practice and it showed because at times we didn’t have legs and shots weren’t falling and that comes from four or five days without practicing.

“We played lackadaisical at times,” he added, “and we looked like it. But give Northampton credit because they played hard and they were better than we thought.”

Bertie led it 10-7 midway through the first quarter before Cherry upped the lead to six with a three-pointer. But back came East as Jacobs dropped a trey of his own to keep the Rams close.

A layup from Jameer Williams moved East within a point at 13-12 with under 30 seconds to play, but Cherry got the mostly partisan Bertie crowd on its feet with a three-pointer from near half court just as the buzzer sounded.

Bertie built a slight five-point lead, 19-14, to open the second quarter before East got a free throw and a three-pointer from Lashawn Pittman to move back within a point at 19-18.

Two more Bertie buckets had the lead at five again before East answered with a baseline layup and another trey to tie it at 20-20.

Each time in the last two minutes the Falcons would gain a cushion, East came back by raining in three-pointers and were only down by a trey, 29-26, at halftime.

Neither team had anything working for them in the third quarter as the two squads combined for just 16 points over the eight-minute span.

Bertie switched to a zone defense to protect its frontline players and built a five-point lead, 35-30,  scoring in the low post before a Williams putback and free throw had the margin down to two again.

East missed a pair of free throws and a chance to tie when Lyons was whistled for a technical foul before Tykevis Bazemore nailed a long three for the Falcons to make it 38-33 going into the fourth.

A 5-1 run in the opening minute got East within a point again, 39-38, but Bertie fought off the challenge. The Rams could’ve taken the lead over the next three minutes, but missed 3-of-4 foul shots.

Two more East free throws after Bertie was called for a second technical had it 43-41, Bertie, with under six minutes remaining. Two possessions later, Pittman nailed a turnaround jumper to tie it at 43-all.

Despite getting into the two-shot bonus, Bertie again failed to capitalize; going 1-for-4 at the line, but stepping up their defense well enough to hold the Rams at bay. With three-and-a-half to play East drained two from the charity stripe and tied it at 46.

After just 2-of-4 Bertie free throws, Wykevin Bazemore hit a jump shot over two East defenders and staked the Falcons to a four-point lead, but East worked the low post for one shot and, after a Bertie layup, East’s Pittman hit a fadeaway and it was 52-50 with under two to play in regulation.

That’s when the Rams’ Jacobs’ steal and lay-in tied it for the seventh time and after a Bertie turnover, it looked like East might deny Lyons his triple. Instead, Trevon Daye missed a putback and Bertie snatched the rebound.

But the Falcons didn’t milk the clock for a final shot, instead turning it over with seven seconds left. Following a timeout, East found Chris Mitchell in the corner, but his potential game-winner was blocked by Bazemore at the buzzer.

Cherry got a layup off the overtime jump ball and Bertie never looked back from there.  The Falcons then played keep-away, forcing East to foul, but this time the Falcons were better at the line going 12-of-16 and collecting key defensive rebounds when East failed to convert field goals at their end. That made for the nine-point win.

“We don’t have anything to hang our heads about,” said East coach Dexter Harris.  “We had opportunities at the end, we just didn’t get it done; but these are things we can work on.”