Falcons fly high, advance to Holiday Classic finals
Published 4:49 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023
By ANDRE ALFRED
AHOSKIE – For the past several years of the Roanoke- Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic, Northeastern High School’s varsity boys pinned losses on Bertie High School, which in turned sent the Falcons to the constellation bracket.
But things were different in 2023 as Bertie pulled off a show stopper and emerged victorious after a stellar performance, handing the Eagles a 62-55 setback in Wednesday’s semifinals of the 32nd annual event held in the Hertford County High School gym.
And the smallest player on the court played the biggest role in securing the win as Bertie’s Jah’Kelvin Rascoe came-up with back-to-back steals and scored off both thefts in the game’s final 13 seconds where the Falcon pulled away from a narrow 58-55 lead.
The Falcons also started well as two thundering dunks by senior center Tequan Holley helped stake Bertie to a quick 6-0 lead in the game’s first minute.
A timely trey from Northeastern’s Tyell Saunders cut the score to 6-3 while hushing Bertie’s fan base.
After the initial shock of the six-point run and the successful trey, the Eagles leveled out and knotted the score to 6-6 with 4:48 left in the first quarter. The quarter ended 11-11, which included four lead changes and four ties.
The Falcons started the second quarter with a basket from Holley 30 seconds in and put the Falcons ahead 13-11. From there the scoring pendulum would swing for both teams with Bertie maintaining as much as a six-point lead.
Northeastern stayed diligent in its scoring efforts and was rewarded as they went into halftime ahead, 32-31.
Bertie opened the second half with the first basket as Rascoe connected, giving the Falcons a 33-32 lead. The scoring in the third quarter would see-saw between both teams with Bertie maintaining the lead. The Eagles were able to tie the score at 43-43 with a crucial basket from Jayden Alexander. That joy was short lived as Rascoe penetrated to the paint and scored over Northeastern’s center giving the Falcons the go-ahead basket, 45-43.
Northeastern stay its course and kept within two points as the quarter ended with the Falcons ahead 47-45.
The fourth quarter contained most of the same ingredients as the prior periods. Bertie scored first within seconds of the inbound play. The scoring see-sawed between both teams with Bertie maintaining the lead.
With a little more than two minutes left in regulation time, the Falcons begin stalling and milking precious seconds off the clock. After a few brief scores still enforcing the stalling clock plan, Bertie attempted to preserve a 57-52 lead, with a less than minute left to play.
Northeastern was finally able to get possession of the ball, and with a quick flick of the wrist from Saunders, he buried the biggest trifecta of the game pulling the Eagles within two points, 57-55.
Bertie stayed true to the stalling method with 16 seconds left to play. The Eagles finally was able to foul Falcon senior Jayza Lee, sending him to shoot two from the charity stripe. Lee was only able to make one of two freebies, increasing Bertie’s lead to 58-55.
Bertie turned up the defense with a full court press and trap which played right into the quick hands and feet of Rascoe whose last second heroics sent Bertie into Friday’s championship game.
Jah’Kelvin Rascoe – 16, Tequan Holley – 14, Zymiere Dempsey – 14, Trevon Halleran – 8, Jayza Lee – 6, J. Deaver – 2, K. Pillmon-Holley – 2.
Tyell Saunders – 16, J. Alexander – 16, S. Saunders – 10, Z’Kobe Whidbee – 8, Unique Blount – 3, EJ Sutton – 2.