Delayed, but not denied

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WINDSOR – I guess you could say they “shot the lights out.”

Two minutes into Bertie’s first round North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) sectional basketball playoff with Topsail on Monday night, the lights went out in the Bertie gym forcing a delay of the game.

For the visiting Pirates it meant a 144-mile bus trip back to Hampstead and returning to Windsor on Tuesday; and for the winner: no off-day before the second-round game on Wednesday.

And some think X’s and O’s are all they had to worry about.

When it was over, 22 hours and 576 travel miles later, the Falcons advanced with a 62-50 victory and once again the ‘third man’ makes the difference.

Junior wing forward Dreshaun Morris eclipsed all scorers with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Senior teammate Wykevin Bazemore, who received his Northeastern Coastal Conference “Player of the Year” award at halftime, had a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds while Norman Cherry III had 17 points and four assists.

Will Thomas led Topsail with 19 points.

Trailing 5-3 from the night before, Bertie opened the resumed game with an 8-0 run thanks in part to an eight-point first quarter from Morris.

Topsail was able to recover in the second quarter and tie it at 24-all before the Falcons went to a half-court game in the second half and put the game away.

“We played aggressively,” said Bertie Head Coach Lester Lyons, “but in playing that fast we tend to let teams back into games so I held it there in the third quarter until they came out and played us and getting them out of that zone is what did it.

“We figured if we could get the lead and then hold (the ball) some,” he added, “then we could force them to try to do different things defensively, and we were ready for that.”

Monday evening Topsail made two quick layups before Cherry answered with a three-pointer to make it 4-3 for the Pirates. Thomas later hit a free throw and Topsail forced a turnover when suddenly the gym went dark.

After a 20-minute wait, but still no power restored, both schools mutually agreed to resume play the following day with the score, 5-3, Topsail, two minutes into the game.

The game picked up Tuesday at 5 p.m. and Morris started things with a three-pointer to give the Falcons their first lead.

Then, on the next possession, he drove the lane for a layup. Cherry got the next three points on a free throw and a short baseline jumper before Topsail coach Jeff Gainey called timeout.

The teams played even from there with Bertie leading after the first quarter, 16-11.

The Falcons were ahead 19-12 in the second when Topsail went on a 12-5 run thanks to three-point shooting and tied it at 24-all with three-and-a-half minutes left until halftime.

Bertie went on their own 9-3 run, four of those points coming at the free throw line thanks to their slowdown game. They went into the locker room at the break up 33-27.

Morris opened the second half with an alley-oop layup on a pass from Cherry and Topsail never came closer than five-points the rest of the game.

Bertie made 12-of-16 foul shots for the half, most of them coming when Topsail was forced to play man-to-man and foul against the quicker Falcons.

Bertie (18-7) led by 11 after three quarters before finishing off the Pirates (15-12)  by a dozen.  It sends the Falcons into the second round at home Wednesday night against Whiteville.

“We couldn’t ‘out-athlete’ them,” said Gainey, “and while we got ’em into a game in the sixties we couldn’t match up with them, so climbing out of a hole was tough.”

“I think it stinks to have to play back-to-back nights in the state playoffs,” said Lyons with a grin, “but they (Topsail) had to travel back-to-back nights. We just have to get our kids ready to have a quick turnaround.”