More jewels in the crown

Published 8:44 am Monday, January 6, 2014

AHOSKIE – Two years was a long time to wait.

That’s how long it’d been since Bertie High girls’ basketball coach Alice Lyons came out of retirement to take over the program.  Along the way there’d been much success; but no crown in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty.

That is, until now.

Lyons’ Lady Falcons withstood an emotional third quarter comeback by Gates County – making their first-ever trip to the finals – and went on to post a comfortable 60-47 win. It was Bertie’s 12th win of the season against no defeats.

“It’s the school’s ninth and eight for me,” said an emotionally-spent Lyons after the game and just before the silver champions bowl trophy presentation. Earlier, she had been asked how many Classic titles the school had won and she embarrassingly confessed it’d been so many she couldn’t rightly remember.

I think she’ll remember this one.

As they have with their previous eleven wins, balance scoring ruled the day for Bertie with Shaunquisha Leary leading the way with 17 points and nine rebounds.  Teammate and eventual tournament MVP, De’najah Porter, tallied 16 points along with 16 rebounds and seven assists. It was 13 points for Tyessence Martin, who had 10 rebounds and 12 points for Jomiya Earley.

Kaila Ballard led Gates County, and all scorers, with 32 points.

Porter had a total for the two games, including the win over Pasquotank, of 28 points, 30 rebounds, 9 steals, 9 assists, & 6 blocks. Leary was selected as All Tournament with 23 points, 22 rebounds, 4 steals, & 4 blocks.  Martin was also selected as All Tournament for being the third stats leader with 22 points, 15 rebounds, 10 steals, 4 assists, & 2 blocks. If there had been a 4th trophy for the winning team, it would have belong to Earley; she was the fourth stat leader with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 assists, & 2 blocks.

Leary got things rolling for Bertie with a pair of buckets in the paint to open the game in the first quarter as the Falcons outscored the Lady Red Barons 8-2. But thanks to Ballard – who had six points in the quarter – Gates was able to come back and tie the game at 10-10 with: 45 seconds left.  A free throw just before the buzzer gave Bertie an 11-10 lead for the quarter.

The second quarter began as a scoring contest in the paint between Leary for Bertie and Ballard for Gates.  The two ladies in the pivot battled back and forth all night and accounted for the first eight points of the second quarter. Bertie kept in front but Ballard got the ‘Barons within two at 16-14 before Bertie scored four in a row.  Again, it was Ballard carrying the ‘Barons inside, but the Falcons had the better outside game and it made a difference; giving Bertie a 26-21 lead as the halftime horn sounded.

Bertie opened the second half on a 9-0 run and upped it to 14-2 making it look as if the game might be decided early as the Falcon lead rose to 17, 40-23.  But with four minutes to go Ballard scored in the low post, Hannah Simpson hit a jump shot and Gates had ignited an 11-2 run of their own. Still, it was Bertie ahead by ten, 44-34, at the end of quarter number-three.

Zhiasia Bazemore hit a free throw to open the fourth quarter and give Bertie an 11-point lead, 45-34, before Ballard suddenly grasped her team, put them on her back and got the ‘Barons back in the game. She scored eight in a row with a pair of three-pointers and a baseline jumper and it was suddenly a three-point game. 45-42.

Martin then scored on a lay-up for Bertie after which Alaysia White scored for Gates to make it 47-44.  But then the Red Barons got sloppy with the ball, turning it over, and Bertie seized on the opportunity.  The Falcons scored the next eight in a row and 13 of the final 17 to close out the game.  Ballard got the only points for Gates down the stretch as Bertie sealed the deal at the free throw line.

“I’m back, baby, I’m back,” said Lyons with a bit of swagger after the teams had shaken hands at midcourt. “That team (Gates) had a lot of backbone, but whatever they throw at you, you have to be able to withstand it and we did.”

“Our youth showed,” said Gates coach Keli Boone. “We’ve got to do a better job of boxing out down the stretch and protecting the ball, but these games have helped our aggressiveness and helped us to get stronger.”

The girls’ All-Tournament team consisted of Janezia Dixon of Plymouth; Kiera Bryant of Rocky Mount Prep; Mikeara Jordan of Pasquotank; Kyara Rodgers of Hertford County; Ballard and Simpson of Gates County; and Leary and Martin of Bertie with teammate Porter named as Most-Valuable-Player.

Bertie hosted the Australian National team last night in Windsor in a game not concluded by press time. The Falcons return to league play Tuesday at Northeastern.  Gates (7-1), now in a new conference, are at Plymouth tonight (Saturday) and on Tuesday will be back home in Gatesville to host Cape Hatteras.