DUBLIN — West Bladen went the final 12 minutes of the game with only one field goal, but sank 33 free throws — including 16-of-22 by Kalvin Page — to knock off visiting First Flight on Tuesday, 65-52, in the opening round of the Class 2-A playoffs.
The win improved the Knights to 18-9 and earns them a third shot at conference foe Clinton on Thursday.
Just as West Bladen coach Travis Pait wanted, the Knights employed a “work it, work it, work it … layup” offensive game plan to open the game.
“We told them we wanted 10 passes before any shot — and hopefully that shot would be a lay up,” Pait said.
The plan worked. The Knights opened the game with a 5-0 burst on an old-fashioned three-point play by Page and a basket by John Bowen. The Nighthawks didn’t put a point on the board until the 3:32 mark, when they hit two straight three pointers to take their only lead of the game, 6-5.
But West Bladen finished the quarter with a 5-0 spurt on a basket by Sayaun Dent, free throw by Bowen and bucket from Page to carry a 10-6 edge into the second stanza.
First Flight bombed in a three-pointer to open the period, but the Knights got baskets from Dent and Bowen to put West Bladen up 14-9. After another three-pointer by the Nighthawks, West Bladen got a pair of driving layups from Page to take an 18-12 edge. First Flight kept bombing away and hit another three-pointer to close within 18-15, but the Knights got a basket from Dent and Page to finish the half with a 22-15 advantage.
West Bladen opened the second half with a 8-0 blitz on baskets from Jimmy Williams and Bowen, along with two free throws and a bucket by Dent to extend the lead to 30-15. The Knights defense held First Flight scoreless in the third quarter until the 4:08 mark, when the Nighthawks buried another three-pointer.
First Flight began fouling, most coming before the ball was advanced across the midcourt line and sending West Bladen to the foul stripe the rest of the third quarter. The Knights hit 11 free throws in the period — including 7-of-19 by Page — to offset a pair of baskets and two three-pointers by the visitors and take a 41-28 lead into the fourth frame.
West Bladen got four free throws from Scott Bowen, two from Geraldo Rayes and one from Page before John Bowen popped in the only field goal for the Knights in the final 12 minutes. Down the stretch, West Bladen hit 15 free throws — eight by Page — to seal the win.
“We watched a lot of film — that’s a real good team, but we thought we found something and that’s why started the game like we did,” Pait said. “I thought we worked our game plan well.
“Two of our guys had the flu this week, but still played well,” he added. “And Kalvin Page was unbelievable tonight.”
Page led West Bladen with 26 points and added six rebounds, while Dent scored 12 points and John Bowen added nine points and 10 rebounds.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.