CROWN CLINCHER

LAKE WACCAMAW — The Lady Eagles got a huge double-double from Patience Ward on Friday, winning their 16th straight and clinching at least a tie for the Three Rivers Conference crown with a 66-52 victory over East Columbus.

East Bladen improved to 20-1 overall, 15-1 in the conference — and was again playing without leading scorer Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson, who was out with the flu.

The game started slowly for both teams, as the Lady Eagles built just a 9-4 edge in the first quarter of play. But both offense heated up in the second stanza, and East Bladen managed to get the better of it by an 18-16 verdict and took a 27-20 advantage into the intermission.

The two teams continued to slug it out in the third quarter, trading points right up until the buzzer. The Lady Eagles won the quarter 20-19 and carried a 47-39 lead into the final eight minutes.

Free throws became key down the stretch, and East Blden made the most of the freebies. The Lady Eagles outscored East Columbus by a 19-13 margin — highlighted by three assists from Katie Evans to Erica McKoy — and sealed the 14-point win.

“We got some big shots in the second half and our press was efficient to pull ahead,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said. “Erica did a good job pushing the ball up the floor (and) Patience worked hard on the boards …

“Ashley (Hardin) and Shardajah (Brown) made some big plays on defense and got much-needed rebounds at crucial times,” she added. “Lorna (Mendell) hit two big free throws to put us up by six and we never looked back.”

Ward’s double-double in included 22 points and 13 rebounds, but she also came up huge with seven steals and hit 10-of-15 from the charity stripe. McKoy scored 20 points and added five rebounds, four assists and two steals; Brown had eight points and eight rebounds; Hardin had six rebounds and six assists.

The Lady Eagles will host South Robeson in a conference game on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Lady Eagles whip East Columbus, 66-52