DUBLIN — West Bladen put up 25 points in the fourth quarter, 10 of those from guard Kalvin Page, to erase a six-point deficit and go on to defeat Whiteville in the second round of the Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament on Thursday, 67-63.
It was the Knights’ eighth straight Woodmen win and seventh straight this season.
Page, who finished the night with 18 points, all but carried the load down the stretch – driving to the basket twice and draining six of nine free throws.
“Teams have been paying so much attention to John (Bowen) and Sayaun (Dent), so we have been expecting this,” said West Bladen coach Travis Pait. “Kalvin can drive and score the basketball — and the good thing is he’s not forcing it.”
The two teams opened the game as if it were a heavyweight bumper car contest. Fouls quickly mounted and neither team could find any momentum. The Knights got the best of things early with a 7-5 edge, but the Wolfpack finished the first quarter with a 6-4 run and the teams remained knotted at 11-11 when the break came.
West Bladen opened the second stanza with a 9-0 burst behind a three-pointer and dunk from Bowen, while the defense held Whiteville scoreless through the quarter’s first 5:33. After the visitors canned a three-pointer, Bowen and Jonathan Robinson combined for the next nine West points to put the Knights up 29-20, but a 6-0 spurt by the Wolfpack pulled them to within three. Scott Bowen finished off the half for West Bladen with a three-pointer to send the Knights into halftime with a 32-26 advantage.
“They’re doing what we asked them to do,” Pait said of his players. “But we need to start boxing out better and winning the battle under the boards.”
It took a while.
The Wolfpack started the second half with a 15-3 run that gave them a 41-35 lead midway through the third quarter. But a technical foul seemed to take the wind out of Whiteville’s sails and West Bladen got a driving basket from Page and five free throws from Dent to finish the period. Still, the Knights trailed going into the final frame, 47-42.
The fourth quarter belonged to West Bladen. Dent, who had scored only from the foul line through the first three quarters, nailed a pair of baskets, Bowen canned two three-pointers and Page scored the Knights’ final 10 points.
The Knights opened the fourth quarter on a 11-4 run to regain the lead. Robinson sank two buckets on mid-range jumpers that sparked a 6-0 run for West and, while Whiteville drained a pair of three-pointers to stay close, Page’s 10-point run was enough to seal the win.
“Jonathan played out of this world,” Pait said. “This team is really becoming a team. The kids were tough tonight.”
Page and Bowen each had 18 points to lead West Bladen — Bowen had four three-pointers and seven rebounds. Dent scored 15 points, 11 from the free throw stripe, and grabbed six rebounds, while Robinson scored seven points and led the Knights with 11 boards.
West Bladen will play Dillon, S.C., on Friday at 8 p.m. in the championship game.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.