ELIZABETHTOWN — The third time was not the charm for the West Bladen Knights on Wednesday when they took on the East Bladen Eagles in the opening round of the Four County Conference Tournament.
West Bladen, which lost both ends of the home-and-home regular-season games when the Eagles caught fire late in each games, came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed with hopes of knocking out No. 4-seeded East Bladen. But another close contest left the Knights holding the short end of the scoreboard, 54-48.
The loss drops West Bladen to 14-11 and the Knights now await the state’s Class 2-A playoff pairings on Saturday, with anticipation for a wildcard designation.
East Bladen improves to 14-9 with the win and was scheduled to take on No. 1 seed Clinton on Thursday.
Jaquan Jones powered the Eagles with a double-double against West Bladen, scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Eian Hines and Farrell Murchison each followed with 10 points, while Josh McMillian grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Knights were led by Malcolm Vaught’s 14, who nailed a pair of three-pointers.
East Bladen edged out to a 13-12 lead after the first quarter, then used a 15-9 advantage in the second quarter to take a 28-22 lead into halftime.
The Knights managed to win the third quarter by a 10-9 margin, but East Bladen got that point back in the fourth with a 17-16 advantage to seal the win
— The top-seeded Lady Eagles used a big first and third quarter to rout No. 8 seed Union in the opening round, 63-25.
East Bladen improved to 23-1 with the win and advanced to take on West Bladen in the second round on Thursday at Clinton.
Asha Graham bombed in a pair of three-pointers to lead the Lady Eagles to a 22-4 first-quarter lead, but a Union spurt got the Lady Spartans to within seven before East Bladen finished the half with the final four points for a 30-19 lead.
Three-pointers by Graham and Lacey Suggs fueled a huge 29-1 run by East Bladen in the third quarter to all but put the game away. The Lady Eagles took a 59-20 lead into the fourth quarter and coasted to the 38-point win.
“We played a great second half, and the second team was able to play the entire fourth quarter,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said.
Suggs led East Bladen with 23 points, while Graham added 14 and Christiana Cromartie scored 10.
— West Bladen, seeded No. 4 in the tournament, used a big second half to pull away from and defeat No. 5 Heidi Trask on Wednesday, 50-34.
The win improved the Lady Eagles to 13-9 and sent them into a second-round matchup with East Bladen on Thursday in Clinton.
Trask battled for a 10-9 edge after the first quarter of play — thanks to an 8-2 run to start the game — but a back and forth affair in the second stanza went West Bladen’s way, 9-8, and the teams went into halftime knotted at 18-18.
The Lady Knights took control in the second half, taking the third quarter by a 14-5 margin and the fourth quarter by 18-11 to seal the win.
Courtney Thompson led the Lady Knights with 16 points and 12 rebounds — moving her into the No. 4 slot on the state’s all-time career rebounds list with 1,382. Taylor Stephens scored 13 points and contributed six assists for West Bladen, while Breanna Jackson grabbed 11 rebounds and Miriam Mendoza had three assists and three steals.
In the boys tournament, No. 1 Clinton defeated No. 8 Union, 64-42; No. 2 Heidi Trask beat No. 7 Pender County, 85-66; and No. 3 Midway got past No. 6 Wallace-Rose Hill, 70-59.
In the girls tournament, No. 2 Clinton beat No. 7 Pender County, 71-41; No. 6 Wallace-Rose Hill upset No. 3 Midway, 41-34.