West Bladen/Clinton III ends Knights season, 50-45

CLINTON – Just like the last time West Bladen and Clinton met on the Dark Horses’ home floor (a 52-51 Clinton win), the Knights were right there Thursday, knocking on the door of a Class 2-A upset win.

But the Dark Horses muscled up underneath the boards down the stretch and came away with a 50-45 win in the second round of the state playoffs.

The loss ends West Bladen’s season at 18-10.

Thursday’s season-ending loss could be traced back to the first quarter, when the Dark Horses broke out of the gate quickly and put the visiting Knights in a deep hole. John Bowen drained a three-pointer early in the game, but West Bladen could only manage a free throw by Sayaun Dent the rest of the way as Clinton built a 14-4 advantage.

The Knights opened the second stanza with a 5-0 spurt highlighted by another three-pointer from Bowen, only to see the Dark Horses answer with an 8-2 run that opened a 22-11 lead. West Bladen managed to put together a 4-0 spurt to finish the half on baskets by Dent and Bowen, but Clinton took a 22-15 lead into halftime.

The Knights continued their run by scoring the first four points of the second half on buckets by Jonathan Robinson and Bowen to pull within 22-19. Clinton responded with a 7-3 run to open a 29-22 edge, but West Bladen fought back again — getting a three-pointer and two free throws from Dent and, after a technical foul against Clinton, Bowen dropped in both shots to give the Knights a 14-9 edge in the third quarter and get the visitors to within 31-29 going into the fourth frame.

The Dark Horses opened the final period with a 7-1 run that gave them a 38-30 lead midway through the quarter. The two teams traded points over the next 2 minutes before Bowen hit a three-pointer to cut the Clinton lead to 42-37, but the Dark Horses hit two straight buckets to push the lead to 46-37 with less then 1:30 left to play.

The Knights went on a 7-2 run on the strength of a three-pointer by John Bowen and basket from Scott Bowen, pulling West Bladen to within 48-44, but Clinton slammed the door shut.

John Bowen led the Knights with 20 points behind three three-pointers and added six rebounds. Dent contributed a double-double with 14 points on two three-pointers and grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds. In limited action, Scott Bowen pulled down five boards.