DUBLIN — The Lady Knights fought back from a pair of four-point deficits late in the fourth quarter Monday and Jerena Purdie dropped in the game-winning free throw with under 3 seconds to play for a 47-46 win over visiting Pender County in the first round of the Four County Conference Tournament.
The victory improved West Bladen to 12-13 overall and sends the Lady Knights into the second round against top-seeded Clinton on Wednesday at Pender County High. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m.
The two teams traded points through most of the first quarter and the Lady Patriots took a 12-11 edge into the second stanza. Purdie tallied four points to keep West Bladen close.
In the second quarter, Purdie stepped things up and scored seven points to give the Lady Knights a 13-12 advantage and knot the game at 24-24 going into the intermission.
West Bladen opened the second half with a 4-0 run behind two free throws and a bucket from Logan Autry, but Pender County answered with an 11-4 burst through the rest of the third quarter to carry a 35-32 lead into the fourth frame.
The two teams couldn’t get away from each other through the first half of the final quarter, producing 37-37 and 39-39 ties along the way.
But the Lady Patriots opened a 43-39 lead with under 4 minutes to play before Akira Grimes drained a three-pointer for West Bladen. Pender County responded with its own three-pointer and the Lady Knights found themselves trailing 46-42 with 1:30 left.
Patience Parker canned a basket 35 seconds later to pull West Bladen to within 46-44 and Laikyn Pait got a steal to give the Lady Knights the ball. Grimes managed to shake free and found the bottom of the net with a lay-up to knot the game and, just seconds later, Purdie was fouled going for a rebound.
The senior center went to the line and sank the game-winner with less than 3 seconds on the clock.
“Pender is pretty fast, so we made the decision to go with a three-quarter zone press almost the entire game,” West Bladen coach Rick Rhoda said. “Our defense at the end of the game won it for us …”
Purdie led the Lady Knights with 19 points, while Parker contributed nine points and four assists. Grimes tallied seven points, while Autry added six points. Pait had nine rebounds, seven steals and six points.