Panthers hold off BHS

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, January 2, 2013

AHOSKIE – In the end, they gave each other a sisterly hug, but only one walked out with the Silver Bowl.

Bertie coach Alice Lyons and Pasquotank coach Janie Cofield had just seen their teams play one of the most exciting girls finals in the history of  the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty.

But only one could come up a winner; and it was Pasquotank, coming from behind to claim the title – and the winner’s Bowl trophy – 51-48.

Pasquotank (10-0) blew out to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter before Bertie came back to trail by two at halftime, then Bertie seized the lead in the third only to see it evaporate late in the fourth.

But there were no tears to be shed.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Mikeara Jordan, who iced the game with a couple of late free throws, led all scorers with 21 points.

Her Lady Panther teammate, Chelsey Elliott, had a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.

Chasquaja Veale and Zelvonia Swain led Bertie with 10 apiece. Tyessence Martin was leading rebounder for Bertie in collecting 10 caroms.

The two teams had met less than two weeks ago in Northeastern Coastal Conference play with Pasquotank prevailing in Elizabeth City by almost a near identical score, 52-47.

“No silver bowl,” said Lyons, smiling through the disappointment after the game as her girls collected the runner-up hardware. “But it was a very exciting game.”

“She (Jordan) was my best penetrator,” said Pasquotank’s Cofield, enjoying the moment of victory above the din of excited Pasquotank players and fans. “We knew if they fouled her she would step up and make those free throws.”

As Bertie (9-2) nursed a one-point lead, 46-45, with 36 seconds left Jordan attacked the collapsing Bertie zone and pulled up just short of the free throw line to drop through a soft jump shot that gave her team a lead they would not surrender again.

“This win showed us where their heart is, because they never gave up” said Cofield, softly striking her chest.

With the score tied 2-2 in the opening minute, Pasquotank scored 13 unanswered points as Bertie’s usual quickness seemed neutralized by the Lady Panthers swarming man-to-man defense.

The first quarter ended with Pasquotank ahead by 10, 15-5.

The second frame started with the Panthers dropping a three-pointer followed by Jordan scoring on a driving layup for a 20-5 lead.  Bertie’s only consolation: Pasquotank center Brianna Elliott picked up two quick fouls.

Following a timeout at the 5:50 mark, Bertie used the open middle to ramp up their transition game. Swain helped lead a 9-0 run that got the deficit down to 20-14.

Pasquotank went back in front by eight, but Elliott picked up her third foul and sat out the rest of the quarter.  Bertie sandwiched a jump shot from Martin, followed by a put-back by Shaquisha Leary between a Jordan jumper to trail by four.

It became a two-point game, 24-22, when Veale sank a pair of free throws and though Bertie had a chance to tie, the teams headed to the locker room with Pasquotank leading by a deuce.

The second half opened with Zhiasia Bazemore getting her only points of the half, a layup to tie the score.  But on Pasquotank’s ensuing possession, Elliott picked up her fourth foul and was forced to sit.

Bertie wasted little time attacking the middle; outscoring the Panthers 9-2, and taking a 33-26 lead. But Pasquotank got two buckets from Chelsey Elliott and trailed by five, 35-30, entering the fourth.

The Lady Panthers went right at the Falcons right from the throw-in.   Bertie fouls produced a pair of free throws and, after a Jordan layup, Jordan Elliott hit a long-range three-pointer and the score was tied, 37-all with 5:20 left.

The teams then traded buckets over the next over three minutes and were still tied, 43-43, at the three-minute mark when Jordan fouled out. The teams then swapped foul shots and were tied, 44-all, for the game’s final minute.

La’Shai Richardson capitalized on a Pasquotank miss with a Bertie layup at the other end and a two-point Falcons lead at 48 seconds, 46-44.

Respecting her quickness, Bertie did not double-team Jordan down the stretch and maybe that’s what turned the game. A Jordan free throw got it down to a one-point game, and then with 36 second left came the heroics.

With the Jordan layup giving Pasquotank back the lead, Bertie drove for the go-ahead score.  Instead, the ball caromed off the front of the rim, and the Falcons fouled Tyanna Green falling out of bounds.

Green made two foul shots for a three-point lead, 49-46.  Bertie scored quickly on a Veale layup to get within one; but Pasquotank put the ball in Jordan’s hands and as she marched twice to the free-throw line, the Panthers began to sense victory.

“She (Jordan) was really only a factor in the last minute,” shrugged Lyons. “We tried, and I’m proud of my girls because they did the best they could.”

As the teams filed out of the gym after the awards, Cofield and Lyons got in their final congratulatory hug. They’ll meet again for a game in Windsor on February 1.

“I learned how strong and deep my team is,” added Lyons. “We’ll be alright in the long run.”