Bertie keeps on rolling

Published 11:05 pm Thursday, February 24, 2011

WINDSOR – No one trick ponies here.

For a team that many feel overachieved for much of their success in 2010-11 Bertie High’s boys basketball team continues to surprise and that may take them all the way to the state championship.

Wednesday night, as the only team in the state of North Carolina playing sectional playoff games on back-to-back nights, the Falcons played their way into the NCHSAA 2A East sectional finals for the third straight year with a 58-49 home win in Windsor over Waccamaw Conference member, Whiteville.

Wykevin Bazemore and Norman Cherry, III each scored 20 points with Bazemore – the Northeastern Coastal Conference “Player of the Year” – scoring eight in the crucial fourth quarter and collecting a double-double with 19 rebounds. Cherry had six assists while Dreshaun Morris also scored in double-figures with ten.

Robert Smith led Whiteville with 13 points while Quamain Rose added 12 for the Wolfpack.

The Bertie trio accounted for all but eight of the Falcons’ points but it was the little things the other players did – like point guard Malcolm Cherry having zero turnovers in a game where ball-handling was critical.

“I think we attacked well,” said third-year coach Lester Lyons.  “We knew they were going to pack their zone in against Bazemore, so Cherry and Cherry and the other guys did a great job of protecting the ball and getting to the basket.”

The game opened with Bertie scoring the first eight points of the game with a field goal each from Cherry, Morris, and Bazemore before Wolfpack coach Jerry Singletary called time out to settle his troops.

Bertie got the lead up to 10-2 before Whiteville began to claw their way back; scoring the final five points of the quarter to only trail by two, 17-15, after the first eight minutes of play.

Willie Bellamy opened the second quarter with a put-back in the paint for the Pack and produced the game’s first of eight ties in the game.  Both teams played zone defense and neither tried to attack the basket so scoring was at a premium.

Twice more Whiteville tied the game, including Rose sinking a pull-up jump shot with only one second on the clock before halftime to send the teams to the locker-room knotted at 25-25.

Rose – who’s received college offers from UNC-Pembroke, among others – got a steal and a lay-up on just the second play of the game and gave Whiteville it’s first lead, 27-25.  Morris answered with a driving baseline lay-up for Bertie to tie it again.

From there it returned to a game of ball-handling with the Cherry brothers orchestrating things in the frontcourt for Bertie and Whiteville trying to counter.

Whiteville took their last lead of the game on their next possession, 29-27,  thanks to a pair of foul shots.  The game went back and forth with a couple of more ties before Morris nailed a three-pointer from the corner to give Bertie it’s biggest lead of the quarter, 38-35, with a minute to play.

But the Wolfpack got another bucket just before the horn and only trailed by one after three quarters, 38-37.

Bertie opened the fourth quarter by forcing Whiteville out of it’s zone and it turned the game in the Falcons’ favor.  With the defense loosened inside, Bazemore scored on a three-point play when fouled on a putback.  He then drove the lane for a short jump shot at the top of the key and Bertie was suddenly up by six.

One play later, a Whiteville foul put Bertie in the one-and-one on foul shots and the Falcons made four out of their next seven at the line.  Bazemore got the last field goal, a breakaway lay-up on a turnover, to give Bertie it’s largest lead of the night, 51-41.

The Falcons closed out the game at the line, making just six-of-twelve with Whiteville forced to foul before Bertie dribbled out the clock, advanced to the third round and claimed their nineteenth win of the year.

“We missed some shots we normally make,” said Singletary, “and it went down for them (Bertie).  They did what they had to do.”

“Once they started penetrating by us,” he added, “we had to come out of the zone and since they were scoring off the dribble we had come out and get them.”

“Coaches are going to be more possession-conscious,” said Lyons.  “I told our guys it’s going to be a much slower game in the playoffs.”

Bertie traveled to Kinston for the sectional final Friday night.  The final score was not available at press time.