Instant ‘Classic’

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Sports Correspondent

AHOSKIE – The 2023 News-Herald Holiday Classic was indeed a “classic” here Friday night where Bertie outlasted Hertford County, 59-57 in double overtime to earn the first place trophy of this 32nd annual event.

It marked the first Holiday Classic title for Bertie in 10 years and their faithful fans stormed the court of the HCHS gym to relish the special moment.

“I heard several people say this was the best Bertie-Hertford County game that they’ve seen in years,” said Falcons head coach Johnnie Rascoe who watched his team improve to 7-0 overall. “Both teams dug deep and played really hard. It was a special win for us.”

Tied at 48-48 at the end of regulation, both teams had their chances to put the game away in the first overtime.

Bertie held a 53-50 lead in the first OT thanks to a three-pointer from Trevon Halleran and a deuce by Jah’Kelvin Rascoe.

Hertford County’s Keveon Rodgers tied the game at 53-all thanks to a free throw and a two-point basket.

Bertie milked the clock down and attempted a shot that missed. Rodgers had a good look at the basket to win it, but his shot rimed out at the buzzer, sending the two old rivals into a second overtime.

The Falcons again surged ahead as baskets from Rascoe and Zymiere Dempsey staked Bertie to a 57-53 lead.

After a basket from Rodgers got the Bears to within 57-55, Rascoe connected on one-of-two free throws as the Falcons held tightly to a 58-55 lead.

Rodgers answered for the Bears, sinking a pair of free throws with 1:12 left to get his team to within a single point at 58-57.

Both teams suffered turnovers on their next possessions, but neither could cash in as both had players to miss two free throws inside the final 15 seconds. Finally, Dempsey drained the second of two charity tosses with 5.7 seconds left to account for the final 59-57 outcome as Hertford County’s last-second shot missed the mark.

Leading 15-10 at the end of the first quarter, Hertford County used a pair of Tyrone Ruffin Jr. baskets at the outset of the second period to fuel a 5-0 run that staked the Bears to a double-digit lead (20-10). That advantage remained (25-15) following a drive to the hoop by Rimiez Williams and a single free throw from Rodgers.

HCHS led 26-17 at halftime.

Sparked by a three-pointer from Rascoe plus a deuce each by Halleran and Kye Pillmon-Holley, the Bertie offense caught fire at the outset of the second half where the Falcons went on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 28-28.

“Hertford County did a good job with slowing the pace of the game in the first half, which really took us out of our normal up-tempo style,” said coach Rascoe. “We were able to pick up the pace early in the third quarter that got us back in the game, but then the pace slowed again and there were plenty of emotional swings by both teams as we went down to the wire in regulation and then to two overtimes.”

The third period ended in a 34-34 stalemate before Williams took over the game early in the fourth quarter. The fleet-footed HCHS junior guard flew around and through the Bertie defense for four baskets plus a pair of free throws (to account for one-half of his 20 points) as the Bears built a 43-36 lead at the 5:21 mark of the period.

It was still a three point lead for the Bears (46-43) with 3:20 left after another successful drive to the hoop by Williams.

Dempsey, who scored a game-high 25 points, took over from there, scoring two clutch hoops and adding a free throw down the stretch to forge a 48-48 tie as regulation play came to a close.

“Zymiere was clutch on both ends of the floor for us, as was Jah’Kelvin,” noted coach Rascoe.

“Like I said before, this was a good win for us, but we’re by no means a finished product; this team can and will improve,” he added. “We’ve got to get more consistent on both ends of the court, especially now with our conference season beginning Jan. 3 followed by three big showcase, non-conference games against Garner, Durham Hillside, and Franklin (VA) coming up in the next couple of weeks.”

All-Tournament Team

Bertie: Jah’Kelvin Rascoe (MVP), Zymiere Dempsey, Tequan Holley, Jayza Lee

Hertford County: Rimiez Williams, Keveon Rodgers, Tyrone Ruffin Jr.

(R-C News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)


Bertie (59)

Zymiere Dempsey – 25, Jah’Kelvin Rascoe – 14, Trevon Halleran – 6, Jayza Lee – 6, Kye Pillmon-Holley – 4, Tequan Holley – 4.


Hertford County (57)

Rimiez Williams – 20, Keveon Rodgers – 19, Tyrone Ruffin Jr. – 10, Jayden Robinson – 4, Ja’Marcus White – 3, Zhae’twan Wells – 1.