CLINTON — Beating the same team three times in a season, and twice in one week — especially a cross-country rival — is never an easy task. And for a little more than two quarters on Thursday, it looked like the Lady Eagles might fall victim to that notion against West Bladen.
But a 14-0 third-quarter spurt helped to carry East Bladen to a 50-34 win in the semifinals of the Four County Conference Tournament, securing a berth in the championship game for the No. 1-seeded Lady Eagles today at 6 p.m. against No. 2 seed Clinton.
“It wasn’t pretty by any means,” said East Bladen coach Patty Evers. “I don’t think we showed up, and by halftime we were not very happy.”
Abbey Norris managed to keep the Lady Eagles a step ahead of the Lady Knights in the first quarter, dropping in six points and helping East Bladen take a 12-10 advantage heading into the second stanza.
But West Bladen, which lost to the Lady Eagles 61-31 just four days earlier, kept the pressure on and outscored East Bladen by an 11-7 margin to take a 21-19 lead into halftime.
Evers said she spent halftime doing two things: Telling her team to thank Norris for keeping them in the game, and then pointing to each Lady Eagles softball player and assigning them their softball positions. Evers also coaches the varsity softball team.
It paid dividends relatively quickly.
West Bladen scored the first second-half bucket to take a 23-19 lead, but then East Bladen went on a 22-4 run that spanned the third and early fourth quarters and all but sealed the game. Buried inside that run was a 14-0 spurt by the Lady Eagles.
“I thought we played one of the best games we’ve played against them,” West Bladen coach Pam Stephens said. “We did well until halfway into the third quarter, and then I think we just got tired.”
Despite the win, Evers was still not happy.
“We showed no effort or emotion, and that’s not good at this time of the year,” Evers said.
Lacey Suggs led East Bladen with 14 points and added six assists. Norris finished with 10 points and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds, while Imani Turner-Dobson had 10 blocked shots and nine rebounds. Abby Ward scored nine points, all in the second half, and Asha Graham had 10 points.
For the Lady Knights, Courtney Thompson was hounded in the paint all night and held to just five points — four in the first quarter and a free throw in the fourth — and 11 rebounds. She now has 1,393 career rebounds.
“We had a hard time getting the ball inside to her (Thompson),” Stephens said. “And when we did, her shots wouldn’t fall.”
Taylor Stephens scored 12 points to lead West Bladen and added four assists, while Miriam Mendoza had nine points and three steals. Breanna Jackson contributed six points and nine rebounds.
East Bladen improved to 24-1, while West Bladen falls to 13-10 and awaits word on Saturday about their Class 2-A state playoff pairing.