Falcons bow out in East Regional Finals

Published 5:18 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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Sports Correspondent

WINSTON-SALEM – Thanks to a cold shooting first quarter, which pretty much defined the game, Bertie High School fell to Wilson Preparatory Academy, 62-46, in the NC High School Athletic Association’s 1A Boys Basketball East Regional Final here Monday afternoon.

Bertie’s Zymiere Dempsey darts between Wilson Prep defenders during Monday’s Class 1A Eastern Regional final held at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem. The Falcons couldn’t recover from a cold-shooting effort in the first period and fell to the defending state champions, 62-46. A.A. Imaging / Andre Alfred

With a sizable crowd of over a hundred Falcon fans who made the three-plus hour trip to the Twin-Cities, Bertie found itself down 23-7 after the first eight minutes, but played even (39 points apiece) the rest of the way.

Much of that first quarter damage was done by senior guard Leslie Minter, who poured in a team-high 16 points – 11 of them in that opening frame thanks to three three-point buckets – as the Tigers scored the first 10 points of the contest. Minter’s heroics allowed his teammates to up their game as Wilson Prep never trailed the entire game.

“At first we really wanted to try to eliminate the driving lanes for Wilson Prep,” said third-year Bertie coach Johnnie Rascoe in the post-game interview. “So we came out in a zone (defense). We gave up three or four really quick threes and got down in a hole really early. Because of that, we had to kind of switch back to man to man which is basically what we’ve been playing pretty much all year. When that happened, the guys kind of settled down a little bit, but at that point you’re in such a hole that you can’t play even.”

The switch helped. Early on, the Tigers upped their margin to the biggest lead of the game – 19 points – thanks to an Elijah Newsome triple that made it 26-7 before Bertie began to claw their way back. Zymiere Dempsey and Tequan Holley raised their inside game and answered Prep‘s physicality by driving the lane to score at the rim and the Falcons won the quarter 10-8, but still trailed 31-17 at halftime.

The third quarter was even colder for Bertie (only six points scored) than the first. Dempsey and Holley continued to carry the load with four and two points scored, respectively, but Prep got to the free-throw line thanks to generous foul calls on Bertie, but they only made 1-of-5. Still, it was enough to nearly double-up the score on the Blue-and-White, and left Bertie in a 41-23 hole.

The fourth quarter was the most evenly-played of the entire contest. Bertie cut the margin back to 16 at 47-31, then went on an 8-0 run to get the deficit under double-figures at 47-39. Much of that was thanks to Trevon Halleran, who scored all of his team-leading 16 total points in the frame thanks to nailing four three-pointers, another field goal and a pair of foul shots. This helped the Falcons to outscore the Tigers by a deuce, 23-21.

On the down side, Bertie also had to keep fouling, and Prep did their own damage at the charity stripe making 11-of-14 free-throws down the stretch sealing the final score with the same 16-point margin they held after the first.

Prep’s biggest advantage was on the glass, collecting 37 rebounds, 30 of them on the defensive end, to Bertie’s 23. Only eight of the Falcon caroms came off the offensive glass.

Bertie also failed to capitalize on Prep’s 22 turnovers, scoring just nine points off those miscues.

Wilson Prep also won second-chance points (13-to-2) and fast-break scoring (17-7).

“We had another great season,” noted Rascoe. “Unfortunately we didn’t end the way we wanted but I’m proud of my kids and the Bertie basketball program. We fell behind early and just couldn’t recover. Wilson Prep is a very good team and you just can’t make mistakes against a team like them.”

“My experience was a good experience,” said Holley, who closed out his high school career with a dozen points. “I mean, our first year we were a young team and because of COVID we only had three years of basketball. This year we wanted to take it a little further, but we had a good season, good play, good team.”

“We finished our last two years really strong,” echoed Halleran. “My advice to those coming after us is you’ve got to believe in your coaches. You’ve got to believe in them.”

This marked the second straight season the Falcons and Tigers had faced each other for the East Regional crown, thus WPA is headed back to the state championship for the third time in the last four seasons. Bertie came up short against Wilson Prep in their previous meeting back in March of 2023, falling 63-57.

On Friday of this week, the Tigers will go on to face Corvian Community High School from Charlotte – which upset 1A West top-seed South Stokes – back in Winston-Salem for the state championship.

“This was a great experience (playing in Joel Coliseum at Wake Forest University) for every team member, myself included,” said Rascoe. “Last year I forgot what gym we were even playing in in a high school gym. This sort of facility, this atmosphere, is something these guys will take with them for the rest of their lives.”

Bertie won 15 of its last 17 games and ends its season at 26-5 overall.


Trevon Halleran -16, Tequan Holley -12, Zymiere Dempsey -11, Jah’Kelvin Rascoe -3, Kye Pillmon-Holley -2, Tayvien Ward -2.


Leslie Minter -16, Josh Hicks -13, David Ellis -11, Brandon Anderson -9, Elijah Newsome -5, Ben Ferguson -5, Keotae Barron -2, Donovan Dickens -1.