Bears survive, advance to Eastern semifinals

Published 11:43 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

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AHOSKIE – Survive and advance…those two words are synonymous with any type of postseason athletic tournament where teams either win to move to the next round or see their season come to an end.

HCHS senior Israel Powell (left) maneuvers past a Heide Trask High School during Saturday’s state playoff game. Powell scored a team-high 27 points to help lead the Bears to an 81-70 win and a berth in the Eastern semifinals. Photo by William Anthony

Such was the case for Hertford County High School here Saturday where the Bears survived a dazzling 39-point performance from Myron McKoy and advanced to the fourth round of the NCHSAA Class 2A tournament by knocking off Heide Trask High School, 81-70.

The third-seeded Bears, now 24-4 overall, will travel on Tuesday to meet second-seeded Goldsboro High School (27-2 overall).

But to make a run this deep in the state playoffs, the Bears had to know that teams like Heide Trask – who, like HCHS, had won their conference title en route to a 24-win season and entered Saturday’s contest riding a 17-game winning streak – were waiting to spring a trap.

Despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game, the Titans were able to make things interesting, basically thanks to the shifty McKoy who was able to beat the defender off dribble drives to the basket or show his accuracy from three-point range.

Hertford County used balanced scoring to keep the Titans defense on their toes. Four scored in double figures led by Israel Powell (27 points) and 21 from Keveon Rodgers. Jayden Robinson added 15 and Shimere Garris chipped in 10.

Rodgers and Powell bombed in a pair of treys in the game’s early stages as the Bears roared to a quick 18-8 lead over a four-minute stretch. Powell would add two free throws and scored on a drive to the hoop to extend the lead to a dozen points (22-10) with 2:46 left in the first quarter.

That’s when McCoy went to work, first with an old-fashioned three-point play followed by a pair of long-range trifectas as the Titans closed the period on a 13-3 run that trimmed their deficit to 25-23.

Veteran HCHS head coach Charles Simmons opted to use a bigger defender on McKoy in the second quarter. The plan worked as McKoy – after torching the Bears for 15 points during the opening period – managed only two successful free throws during the second, eight-minute stretch.

Meanwhile, the Bears turned Robinson loose and he drove to the hoop to score three baskets. That effort – plus a trey from William Valentine, an offensive rebound stick back from Rodgers, and a steal and layup by Garris – staked HCHS to a 40-31 halftime lead.

Another three-point bomb from Valentine plus a basket by Rodgers in the paint extended the Bears lead to 12 (45-33) two minutes into the third quarter. From there, Powell took over as the senior forward scored 12 of his team’s next 15 points that led to a 60-44 advantage with less than two minutes to play in the period.

McCoy’s steady effort kept the Titans within striking distance he buried a three-pointer and added two deuces and a pair of free throws to make it a 66-53 game entering the fourth period.

The Titans switched to a zone trap defense in the final quarter in an effort to produce quick points off turnovers. That ploy worked in the early stages of the period as McCoy and Jamiel Davis scored on lay-ups off steals, helping to get the visitors as close as nine points (68-59) with 6:08 left.

Simmons called a timeout at that point and the Bears settled down as Rodgers canned a trey from the left corner followed by Garris scoring off an offensive rebound.

Back-to-back baskets from McKoy kept it a 10-point game (73-63) with 3:08 left, but the Bears kept the Titans at bay as Valentine and Rodgers each sank a single free throw sandwiched around a Powell basket off his offensive rebound to push the lead to 15 (79-64) with 64 seconds left.

Hertford County (81)

Israel Powell – 27, Keveon Rodgers – 21, Jayden Robinson – 15, Shimere Garris – 10, William Valentine – 7, Ahmad Rodgers – 1.

Heide Trask (70)

Myron McKoy – 39, Jamiel Davis – 11, Sherrod Henderson – 8, Brandon Bannerman – 6, Jaylin Harvery – 4, Martez Davis – 2.

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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