DUBLIN — East Columbus went on a 15-point run in the second quarter and held off a furious fourth-quarter West Bladen rally to nail down a 71-60 Three Rivers Conference win on Friday.
The loss drops the Knights to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
Tyre Boykin canned the first two shots of the game to give West Bladen a 4-0 lead, but the Gators went on a 6-2 run before Shyron Adams drained a three-pointer to give the Knights a 9-6 edge. East Columbus then went on a 9-0 burst for a 15-9 lead, but Scott Bowen hit a bucket and Gerardo Reyes canned a three-pointer to get West Bladen within 15-14. The Gators, however, got a three-pointer at the buzzer to take an 18-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
That lead grew to 22-14 early in the second, but West Bladen went on a 6-0 run on baskets by Drew Harris, Jimmy Williams and Adams to cut the deficit to 22-20. That’s when the visitors put together a 15-0 explosion to finish the first half and take a 37-20 advantage into halftime.
“We moved the ball well for most of the first quarter, but things fell apart quick,” West Bladen coach Travis Pait said.
Kerron Washington opened the second half for the Knights by draining a three-pointer and, after the Gators scored five straight points, Williams canned another three-pointer for the Knights to cut the visitors’ lead to 42-26.
Bowen answered an East Bladen bucket with one of his own, but the Gators finished the third quarter with a 12-8 run that gave East Columbus a 56-36 lead. Adams had another three-pointer for West Bladen, Tyre Boykin canned a bucket and a trio of free throws were scored by Jonathan Robinson, Jaheim Lesane and Boykin.
At about the midway point of the third quarter, much of the crowd began paying close attention to the battle of the cheers between the two schools’ cheerleading squads. But the frenetic scoring of the fourth quarter brought the focus back to the court.
Harris opened the quarter with a bucket and the Gators answered; Trenton Lyons scored a basket and East Columbus answered and added a free throw. Bowen then hit a pair of baskets and Williams added a three-pointer to close the Knights’ deficit to 61-47 midway through the period.
After a Gators free throw, Robinson hit a free throw and Williams drained another three-pointer. East Columbus hit its own three-pointer before Boykin canned a bucket, and the Gators scored on the return trip to extend their lead to 67-53.
But the Knights went on a 5-0 burst on two free throws by Boykin, a basket by Washington and free throw by Reyes to pull West Bladen to within 67-58 with less than a minute to play.
East Columbus scored the next four points before Harris finished the scoring with a basket as time was running out.
“A lot of turnovers — not just turnovers, we expect that with this style of play, but bad turnovers,” Pait said. “And we didn’t rotate on defense very well.
“Just not a lot of positives,” he added.
Williams led West Bladen with 13 points behind a trio of three-pointers, while Boykin scored nine points and both Adams and Bowen scored eight points.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.