‘March’ing towards the ‘Madness’

Published 10:07 am Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Congratulations to the Bears of Hertford County High School and the Lady Falcons of Bertie High School. Those two teams have advanced to the “Elite Eight” in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s annual basketball tournament.

When the 2017 statewide event tipped off on Tuesday of last week, there were 64 total teams listed on the Eastern and Western Region brackets in both the Class 2-A boys and girls divisions. After three rounds of action (played respectively on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights of last week), only eight teams remain across the state.

For Hertford County’s varsity boys, the road to the Elite Eight is a surprising path.

Before covering the Bears this past week in their three wins to open the state play-offs, the last time I saw them play was in the annual R-C News-Herald Holiday Classic that took place over the Christmas break. I saw a team that was out-of-sorts and was not playing well together.

But what I knew deep down was the fact that the Bears had an ace on the bench in the form of veteran coach Charles Simmons. With roughly 600 coaching wins to his credit, “Sir Charles” and his capable staff of assistants have fined tuned this season’s band of Bears and the team proceeded to go on a winning streak that propelled them to the conference’s regular season title. Now they are poised to do something unimaginable just a few months ago – play for an Eastern State Championship.

Standing in the Bears way is a formidable foe – top-seeded Greene Central High School (25-1 overall). The Rams will host HCHS (20-8 overall) on the last day of February where both teams have a date with “March Madness” on their minds.

Meanwhile, over in Windsor, the Lady Falcons are rolling. First-year head coach Kelvin Hayes has watched his talented club suit-up for 29 games so far this season.  On 28 of those occasions, Bertie emerged victorious.

Along the way, the Lady Falcons added three pieces of shiny first-place hardware to their trophy case: winning the 26th annual Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic back in December followed by capturing the regular season and tournament titles in the Northeastern Coastal Conference. And oh, by the way, they did not lose a single game in conference play.

As the top-seeded team in the Class 2-A Girls Eastern bracket, the Lady Falcons have cruised to three straight wins to open the play-offs: 72-30 over Southern Vance; 58-27 over Warren County; and 56-41 vs. Roanoke Rapids.

Now, Bertie has one final home game on Feb. 28. That comes against fifth-seeded Bartlett Yancey High School. The Lady Buccaneers (23-6 overall) will make the long trip from Caswell County (just south of Danville, VA).

Best wishes to both Hertford County High and Bertie High as they embark on a mission to reach the state’s prestigious “Final Four.” The Eastern Regional championships will be held in Fayetteville on March 4.

Let the real “madness” begin!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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