Eagles tip Falcons

Published 1:19 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WINDSOR – It was almost like a playoff game.

So maybe this was a preview.

Bertie and Northeastern went at each other hard Friday night in Northeastern Coastal Conference play; and when this nail-biter was finished, the Eagles had eeked out a four-point win over the host Falcons, 69-65.

The loss ended Bertie’s 7-0 unbeaten run to open the season, while the win left Northeastern alone in first place in the conference at 2-0.

The Eagles went on scoring runs at the start of both the first and third quarters, forcing Bertie to play catch-up.  The Falcons did it in the first half, but the second half deficit was a bit too much for the boys in white to overcome.

“We kind of played from behind all night,” said first-year Falcons coach Kelvin Hayes. “We made our run, though, a couple of times.

“I just wish we would have had one more minute in the ball game; I think we might’ve been able to pull it out,” he added with a sigh.

Trailing by 10 in the first half, 23-13, Bertie rallied to outscore the Eagles, 16-6 and tie the score at halftime, 29-all.

They then overcame a fourth quarter deficit to trail by two points with 18 seconds left, only to see a potential game-winning three-pointer clang off the rim as Northeastern closed it out with a pair of foul shots.

The Falcons made 14 trips to the free throw line all night, but were only able to cash in just half of those attempts.

Northeastern, meanwhile, had twice as many trips as Bertie in the second half alone; dropping 20-of-28 attempts in just the third and fourth quarters.

Shyki Mitchell led a trio of Bertie players in double-figure scoring with 17 points.  Malik Williams had 11 while Shaquille White added 10.

Trey Carver led all scorers with 19 and was part of four Northeastern players in double-figures.

“We all heard about Bertie being undefeated,” said Northeastern coach Ronald Nixon. “That kind of just motivated our guys and our coaches so we came in prepared for tonight’s game.”

The preparation paid off in the early going.

After a Williams jump shot tied the game at 4-4, Northeastern went on a 13–1 run that quieted the overflow Bertie crowd and raced the Eagles out  to a 17-5 advantage.

Williams added a pair of free throws for Bertie to make it a 10-point margin, 17-7, after the first eight minutes of play.

Another run for the Eagles – this time, 6-2 – and Bertie was then in a 19-point hole, 23-10.

But that’s when the Falcons started their comeback.

Jaquiz Hafiz dropped a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to begin things and after a free throw, Day scored the next six points in a row.

Nixon called timeout and got a steal and layup, but Bertie had climbed back within three, 25-22.  A Marquis Whidbee layup pushed Northeastern back out in front by five again, but that was their last field goal of the half.

Bertie got it down to two with under a minute to play, 27-29, thanks to a Marquis Holley three-pointer; then after an Eagles miss Bertie got a tip-in from White just as the horn sounded that tied the game.

The Falcons couldn’t carry that momentum over after coming out of the locker room.  A White layup was all Bertie could muster in the first three minutes of the third that made it, 31-31, before Northeastern started blitzing again.

This time it was a 14-2 run, saddling Bertie with a 49-33 deficit. The teams played even in the final minute and a half of the third, but the Falcons were still looking up at a 55-41 deficit when the horn sounded.

Bertie chipped away, little by little, getting it down to 10, 57-47, in the opening minutes of the fourth. It was 59-48, Northeastern with four minutes to play when another Hafiz rainbow three-pointer got it under 10, 59-51.

Bertie then got a pair of layups to Northeastern’s lone free throw, and suddenly it was a five-point game , 60-55, with 3:42 to play and Nixon called timeout.

It was still a five-point game, 65-60, later when Malcolm Cherry’s layup got it down to three.  But a Bertie foul sent the Eagles back to the line where they made 1-of-2 to push it back up by four.

Up 66-62, Nixon called timeout with 59 seconds left. Bertie was forced to foul, but Carver only made 1-of-two2  It was 67-62 when Williams launched a three-pointer 20 seconds later that made it a two-point game.

On their next possession, Northeastern turned the ball over to the delight of the Bertie crowd, now on their feet and anticipating a whisker win.

Instead, the Falcons went for the jugular and came up short as the shot drew only iron and the Eagles (10-1) iced it away at the free-throw line.

“I told the kids to go to church, Watch Night, whatever,” said Nixon, with a smile. “We can enjoy this because we don’t have another game until January 8.”

Not so for Bertie (7-1). The Falcons open play in the holiday tournament sponsored jointly by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and United Country Joe Murray Realty against defending 2-A Eastern champ, Plymouth on Wednesday at Hertford County High School.

“If we can get a three-game run going,” said Hayes. “I think we can get back on track.”