DUBLIN — East Bladen and West Bladen rained down a combined 17 three-pointers on Tuesday, but it was a defensive third quarter that proved to be the difference as the Knights turned away the visiting Eagles 62-58 in a Four County Conference tilt.
The win improves West Bladen to 13-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference, while East Bladen falls to 5-10 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
The Eagles flew into the Castle with an upset on its agenda, and opened the game like they intended to carry it out. Dayvon Powell drained a pair of free throws and Denzel Johnson hit a basket for a quick 4-0 edge. The Knights were held scoreless until the 4:10 mark when Shaquille Johnson buried a basket to cut the deficit in half, but East Bladen went on a 9-6 run behind three-pointers from Ethan Hines and J.R. Robinson. Stefan McDonald countered with a three-pointer for West Bladen, but the Knights trailed 14-8 after the first quarter.
The momentum stayed with the visitors in the second quarter’s early going as the Eagles got a three-pointer from Johnson and two free throws from Robinson for a 19-8 edge. But West Bladen answered with a 5-0 spurt on a basket by Johnson and free throws by Will Lambeth and Sayaun Dent that cut the gap to 19-13.
East Bladen got baskets from Eian Hines and Chris Cromartie to go along with three-pointers by Ethan Hines and Robinson before intermission, but the Knights got a bucket from Lambeth, a three-pointer from McDonald and free throws by Dent and McDonald to trail by just 29-22 at halftime.
“We need to get the offense going,” said West Bladen coach Travis Pait. “I thought we played pretty good defense, but they hit some tough shots.”
East Bladen coach Ken Cross wasn’t overly thrilled with the Eagles’ lead or their early play.
“We did some good things, we did some dumb things,” he said. “We have to move the ball better.”
West Bladen opened the second half with a 4-0 spurt on baskets by Johnson and Jimmy Williams before Powell canned a basket for the Eagles. After Jonathan Robinson and Eian Hines traded baskets, keeping East Bladen up 33-27, the Knights went on a 9-0 explosion on successive three-pointers by Dent, McDonald and Keyshaun Lewis that gave West Bladen its first lead at 36-33 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
Eian Hines stopped the Eagles’ bleeding with a basket, but Dent buried a three-pointer as the quarter expired and kept the Knights up, 39-35.
East Bladen opened the fourth frame with a 7-0 run behind free throws by Powell, a basket by Robinson and a three-pointer by Johnson for a 42-39 edge. But Dent scored a basket and added a free throw moments later to knot the game. Then things went back and forth — basket by Eian Hines for East; basket by John Bowen for West; basket by Ethan Hines for East; basket by Bowen for West; basket by Robinson for East; basket by Bowen for West.
Johnson followed with a three-pointer for the Eagles, but West Bladen went on a 7-0 spurt behind baskets by Johnson and McDonald, along with a three-pointer by Dent to give the Knights a 56-51 lead.
Eian Hines drained two free throws for the Eagles, but Dent did the same for West Bladen moments later. Johnson swished a long three-pointer for East Bladen to pull the Eagles to within 58-56, but Kalvin page hit his lone basket of the game for the Knights and McDonald added two free throws to seal the win. Sincere Smith tossed in a last-second basket for East Bladen for the final margin.
“We battled,” Pait said. “Everyone who came in did their job. I think the key was that we changed the offense in the second half and that helped us. We were just hoping their shots wouldn’t keep falling.”
Dent led West Bladen with 19 points on three three-pointers and grabbed 10 rebounds. McDonald scored 14 points with three three-pointers and added five assists. Bowen scored seven points and pulled down six rebounds, while Johnson had eight points and seven rebounds.
East Bladen had four players in double figures, led by Johnson’s 15 points, all on three-pointers, while Robinson scored 12 points with two three-pointers. Ethan Hines scored 10 points with two three-pointers and Eian Hines scored 10 points.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.