Lady Eagles rally past West Bladen

W. Curt Vincent Editor

January 22, 2014

DUBLIN — The Lady Eagles of visiting East Bladen used a huge second half to wipe out a halftime deficit and hand West Bladen a 56-37 Four County Conference loss on Wednesday.

East Bladen remained perfect on the season with the win, moving to 16-0 overall and 7-0 in the confefence; the Lady Knights fell to 9-5 overall and 4-3 in the conference.

Coach Pam Stephens couldn’t have scripted things any better for West Bladen in the first half. East Bladen opened the game with a quick 4-0 spurt, but the Lady Knights controlled the rest of the first quarter and outscored the visitors by a 9-5 margin — including a 4-0 run late in the quarter on two baskets by Taylor Stephens.

Knotted at 9-9 going into the second quarter, neither team’s offense could find second gear and, midway through the stanza, the game remained tied at 11-11.

West Bladen took a 13-11 edge moments later, but the Lady Eagles answered with a 4-0 spurt on free throws by Lacey Suggs and a basket by Abby Ward for a 15-13 lead. The Lady Knights, though, responded with a 5-0 run to finish the half behind a three-pointer from Laikyn Pait and a pair of free throws by Courtney Thompson — sending West Bladen to the locker room nursing an 18-15 lead.

“The shots were there, we’re just not knocking them down,” said East Bladen coach Patty Evers. “And every time we create a turnover, we throw it away ourselves.”

That was about to change.

West Bladen’s 5-0 run to end the first half was matched with a 5-0 run to start the second half — thanks to free throws by Thompson and another three-pointer by Pait, giving the lady Knights a 23-15 lead.

But East Bladen finally got things going at the 6:02 mark of the third quarter, going on a 15-0 run highlighted by three baskets from Suggs, two from Ward, one each from Asha Graham and Christiana Cromartie, and a free throw by Abbey Norris. The run propelled the Lady Eagles to a 30-23 lead and was getting fueled by their patented pressure defense.

Thompson hit a free throw to stop the bleeding for West Bladen late in the quarter, but East Bladen took a 31-26 lead into the final 8 minutes of play.

The momentum continued for the Lady Eagles as they reeled off the fourth quarter’s first eight points — on baskets by Norris, Suggs, Ward and Cromartie — for a 39-26 lead. Stephens hit the Lady Knights’ first points at the 4:01 mark with a basket, but East Bladen went on an 8-0 spurt on baskets by Ward and Suggs, along with a pair of free throws each by Imani Turner-Dobson and Norris for a 47-28 lead.

West Bladen managed to put together a quick 6-2 run fueled by a three-pointer from Miriam Mendoza, but the Lady Eagles answered with a 7-0 spurt on baskets by Suggs and Turner-Dobson, along with free throws from Graham and Norris.

The Lady Knights ended the game with a 3-0 run on a basket by Logan Autry and free throw by Mendoza.

“The defense was much better in the second half,” Evers said. “And our shot started to fall. We just need to start putting two good halves together now.”

“Their defense rally intensified in the second half,” said West Bladen coach Pam Stephens, whose Lady Knights committed 19 second-half turnovers. “They really clamped down on us, but I’m proud of the girls. They played hard the whole game.”

Suggs led East Bladen with 18 points and added nine rebounds and six steals. Ward contributed 10 points, while Norris had nine points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four blocks. Turner-Dobson also scored nine points, and added nine rebounds and three blocked shot; Graham, who was held to just four points, turned in seven steals and seven assists.

West Bladen was led by Stephens’ 11 points and three steals, while Thompson had 11 rebounds and five points. Mendoza scored nine points for the Lady Knights.