Lady Eagles crush St. Pauls in playoff opener

W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Lady Eagles pestered visiting St. Pauls into 31 turnovers and Lacey Suggs poured in 24 points as East Bladen knocked off the Lady Bulldogs in the first round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs on Tuesday, 56-27.

The win improves the No. 1 seed Lady Eagles to 28-0, while No. 32 St. Pauls — which came into the game winners of six of its last seven games — finishes the season at 9-16. The lady eagles will host No. 16 Southwest Edgecombe, 12-11, on Thursday.

Suggs dominated the first quarter, as East Bladen opened the game with a 9-0 run behind a stiff full-court press, five points from Suggs and baskets from Emily Scott and Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson. The Lady Bulldogs didn’t get on the board until a basket 2:04 into the game, but the Lady Eagles then went on a 9-2 run on a basket by Moore-Peterson and three baskets from Suggs with a free throw to extend the lead to 18-4.

St. Pauls put up a bucket and free throw to close the margin to 18-7 after the first period.

Christiana Cromartie canned a p[air of free throws to start the second quarter and Moore-Peterson drained a three-pointer just ahead of a free throw by Suggs, but the Lady Bulldogs matched the scoring with seven points of their own to keep the margin at 11. East Bladen then went on an 11-0 spurt to finish the half on two straight baskets by Moore-Peterson, a pair of free throws by Suggs, a bucket by Miller Heustess and a prayer of a three-pointer that banked in at the buzzer by Scott to send the Lady Eagles into halftime with a 36-14 advantage.

“You can tell Abby (Ward) isn’t on the floor,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said about her point guard, who was home sick. “But the defense is real good and we’re playing hard. We just have to keep pushing the ball and shooting.”

The Lady Eagles opened the second half with a basket by Cromartie and two free throws by Suggs to extend the lead to 40-14 before St. Pauls hit two free throws. East Bladen then finished the third quarter with a 9-3 burst on a pair of baskets by Cromartie and five free throws from Suggs to take a 49-19 lead into the fourth frame.

Cromartie canned a basket to start the quarter and Moore-Peterson sank a free throw before St. Pauls could put any points on the board 2:24 into the period. The two teams all but traded points the rest of the way, as East Bladen got a free throw each from Suggs, Moore-Peterson, Ashley Hardin and Michelle Page to seal the win.

“I think we did a good job without Abby on the floor,” Evers said. “We were able to get out on the break and then run the clock in the fourth quarter and get out of there healthy.

“I’m really happy with the defense,” she added, “but when you get to the playoffs you have to turn up the defense every game.”

Suggs led East Bladen with 24 points, including 16-for-19 from the free throw line. She also had seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. Moore-Peterson scored 13 points and added six steals, four rebounds and three assists for the Lady Eagles.

Cromartie contributed 10 points with seven rebounds, six blocked shots and three steals; Hardin contributed four rebounds and three steals in limited action; Heustess added seven rebounds.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent

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