ELIZABETHTOWN — A game that featured 68 turnovers was decided at the free-throw line, where the Lady Eagles of East Bladen used an 11-0 advantage in the fourth quarter to beat back an upset bid by county rival West Bladen and take a 49-45 win.
The Lady Eagles improved to 11-3 overall and 4-1 in the Four County Conference; the Lady Knights suffered their first conference loss and fell to 7-6, 3-1.
The first quarter was all East Bladen, as Ja’Toya Moore-Peterson got things going with a basket and, after a free throw by West’s Logan Autry, the Lady Eagles went on a 6-0 run fueled by baskets from Patience Ward, Ashley Hardin and Moore-Peterson. Elizabeth Allbright finished the quarter for West with a free throw, but the Lady Knights were down 8-2 going into the second stanza.
Laikyn Pait scored West Bladen’s first basket to open the quarter and Hardin matched it for East before the Lady Knights went on a mini 4-0 run behind two free throws and a basket by Autry to cut the deficit to 10-8. After a basket by Moore-Peterson for East, West Bladen answered with a 7-0 burst on two free throws by Autry along with two baskets and a free throw from Patience Parker that gave the Lady Knights a 15-12 lead late in the period.
Anna Kate White canned a basket for the Lady Eagles and Parker did the same for the visitors to end the half with West Bladen up, 17-14.
The Lady Knights kept the momentum on their side to start the second half, opening the third quarter with a 5-0 spurt behind a basket by Pait, free throw from Jerena Purdie and bucket by Parker to open a 22-14 lead. But the Lady Eagles answered with a 9-0 run — seven of those coming from Moore-Peterson along with a basket by Justyna Gargala — that gave East Bladen a 23-22 edge.
West Bladen regained the lead on a basket by Parker, but the Lady Eagles came right back with a 5-0 spurt on two baskets and a free throw by Ward. The Lady Knights fought back with a 5-0 burst of their own on three free throws by Pait and a bucket from Autry to take a 29-28 edge. Moore-Peterson and Gargala each buried a basket before Pait hit a basket to keep West Bladen within 32-31 at the end of the period.
The Lady Knights opened the fourth frame with baskets by Pait and Purdie to open a 35-32 edge before the two teams traded points through the next few minutes. With West Bladen holding a 43-37 advantage, the Lady Eagles went on a 7-0 run fueled by a basket and two free throws from Moore-Peterson and took a 44-43 lead as the game was winding down.
Purdie put back a rebound for a West Bladen bucket, but the lady Eagles closed the game on a 5-0 spurt on a basket and free throw from Moore-Peterson and bucket by Gargala to seal the win.
“Justyna off the bench gave us a spark we needed,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said. “It was just a good basketball game. They (West Bladen) fought really hard; this was a good game for us (because of) where this program is right now.”
Moore-Peterson led the Lady Eagles with 22 points, while Ward contributed 14 points and was 8-for-13 at the line, including 7-for-10 in the fourth quarter. East Bladen, however, had 33 turnovers in the game.
West Bladen was led by a trio of players in double figures — Parker with 13 points, Pait with 11 points and Autry with 10 points. The Lady Knights committed 35 turnovers in the game.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.