Falcons pass ‘exam’

Published 2:00 pm Monday, January 14, 2013

WINDSOR – Final exam.

Last week was Exam Week for Bertie High School, but one of the biggest tests the Falcons faced Friday night came not in the classroom, but on the basketball court.

And they passed.

Using an attacking offense, smothering defense on the front line, some savage rebounding, and their opponent’s woes at the foul line, Bertie held off rival Hertford County, 54-49.

Shaquille White led the Falcon attack with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds. Marquee Outlaw and Malik Williams had 11 points each; with all of Williams’ points coming in the second half.

Deshondre Day had three steals and a pair of blocked shots.  Both Raekwon Williams and Malcolm Cherry had three assists each.

Jquwan Ruffin had 15 points for the Bears while teammate O’Shane Ximenes tallied 10 before fouling out in the second half.

“It was a total defensive effort,” said first-year Bertie coach Kelvin Hayes. “Our big guys put forth great effort.  We had people tonight willing to sacrifice.

“It (the win) also gives us more enthusiasm and hope that we can overcome adversity, which gives us an opportunity to get better,” he added.

The game began as a tightly contested one; a first quarter that featured a pair of ties and three lead changes.

Ximenes opened the game with a conventional three-point play for the Bears.

Bertie, meanwhile, took their first lead, 4-3, when Williams made a strong drive to the hoop; perhaps signaling the Falcons’ key to the game, as the home team scored six unanswered points.

Hertford County put together a six-point run of their own to retake the lead, 9-8.

Bertie tied it and went back in the lead when Outlaw was fouled on a three-point shot and made the free throws. The teams traded buckets the rest of the frame and the quarter ended with Bertie ahead by one, 15-14.

The Falcons opened the second quarter on a 7-2 run to seize a 22-16 lead, the last two points coming on a crowd-pleasing, rim-rattling, dunk by Outlaw off a Bears’ turnover.

Ruffin answered for HCHS with a pair of field goals, the last one a high, arching, three-pointer to make it a one-point game again, 22-21, Bertie.

The Falcons went into the double-bonus with four minutes left before half time, but couldn’t cash in at the free throw line.  They made just 3-of-8 and were leading by six before Hertford County hit a trey as tied expired.

Bertie took a 27-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Williams came out of the break like a house afire as he scored Bertie’s first eight points of the half beginning with a jam-burger that delighted the crowd. He got the other six points on a pair of free throws and a couple of power moves inside.

It all helped Bertie to their biggest lead of the game at 35-26.

Thanks to Jarrett Sexton and Ximenes, Hertford County was able to climb back into it; but it came at a price as both players reached four fouls apiece before the fourth quarter.

The Bears might’ve cut more into the Bertie lead, but after not getting to the charity stripe at all in the third quarter they were just 3-of-10 in free throws midway through the fourth quarter.

Sexton fouled out with 5:30 left in the game and Bertie ahead by three, 43-40. A minute later a Shyki Mitchell three-pointer giving Bertie a seven point lead, 48-41

The Bears had a chance to slice further into the lead, but continued to misfire at the free throw line. With three minutes to play, Ruffin hit a three-pointer and it was suddenly a two-point game, 48-46.

Ximenes fouled out 30 seconds later and the White free throw pushed Bertie to a three-point bulge, 49-46.  White dropped in a pair after that and it was 51-46 with under a minute to play.

The Bears, however, refused to yield as a Ruffin free throw made it, 51-47.

On the trip back up court, the Falcons turned the ball over; and while Hertford County missed the chippie layup, Jemel Monger got the tip-in and it was a two-point game, 51-49 with 30 seconds left.

After a Hertford County timeout, White saw a hole in the zone and zipped the defense to the basket for a bank-shot lay-up with 18 seconds to play.

The Bears missed their shot and Bertie iced the game with one final free throw.

“We got nothing established because of their pressure defense,” said veteran Bears coach, Charles Simmons.  “Our big kids were in foul trouble and that just killed our inside game.

“It’s going to have to be back to basics and fundamentals,” he added.

Hertford County has their exam period this week before traveling to Pasquotank County High School on Friday.  Bertie has two games on the road: at First Flight in Kill Devil Hills on Thursday, and at Edenton on Friday.